The fouls had a little more fire to them, the way they should in a Killeen-Ellison boys basketball game.
The game meant something, finally, like only a Roos-Eagles rivalry game could.
Ellison scored 12 of the final 13 points of the first quarter to build a sizable lead, Tyree King hit six of eight free throws in the final 26 seconds of the fourth to hold off Killeen’s rally for a 66-56 win in the first district game between the crosstown rivals since 2006.
Killeen snapped an eight-game losing streak to the Eagles by winning both district meetings between the schools in 2007 en route to the first of Killeen’s seven straight district championships, including a title-clinching 47-35 win the last time the two met as district opponents on Feb. 7, 2006.
Ellison senior guard Ojai Black wasn’t thinking about the history. Ellison head coach Alberto Jones simply reminded the team of its 69-68 loss to Killeen last season. Black missed three game-winning opportunities in the final 25 seconds of the loss.
“Before the game, coach just told us, ‘Hey, we’ve got to get redemption this year,’ This is a couple of our guys’ last year, so we thought we needed to come out, be aggressive and get on them quick,” said Black, who scored a game-high 21 points.
Ellison (19-4, 4-0 8-5A) forced nine Killeen turnovers in the first quarter, including four straight to spark a 7-0 run — all scored by senior forward Thomas Larry — late in the period.
Thomas finished with 14 points for Ellison, which won its 12th straight game dating to an overtime loss to Austin Akins in mid-December.
“They really put it on us in the first half,” said Killeen coach Reggie Huggins. “If that first half goes any other way, we might be seeing a different outcome. They did a real good job pushing up on us and we did a poor job of pushing back at them. That’s why you play two games (in district). We get them on the reverse side at Ellison, that’s what we’re going to look forward to.”
Killeen (13-12, 2-2) rallied from a 19-point deficit to pull within six, 60-54, on Brian Long’s 3-pointer with 33 seconds left. But King closed the door on the Roos, who were looking for their third straight District 8-5A win, with his free throws in the waning seconds.
Long led Killeen with 15 points, 11 in the second half. DeVarri McCray hit three of the Roos’ four 3-pointers and finished with 11 points and Devyn Williams added 10.
“(Their defense) got us out of the game (early),” Long said. “We started missing free throws, started getting mad at each other, turning the ball over. It messed up our game a lot.
“If we would’ve played with them in the first half, we probably would’ve won the game,” Long added, “because in the second half, we came out with the intensity, we came out with effort.”
The Eagles led 17-8 after the first quarter and Malik Hawkins immediately hit a 3 to stretch the lead to 20-8. Williams made a pair of free throws for Killeen to cut the deficit to 21-12 with 6:40 left, but Black scored the first five points of a 9-2 run that put the Eagles comfortably ahead 30-12 with 4:17 left in the first half. Ellison led 37-21 at the break.
“We knew we had to be physical because they’re physical, but I think that’s just Ellison basketball,” Jones said.
“I think (the rivalry) plays into the emotions,” Jones added. “You saw late in the game, the kids kind of got emotional. ... But, as far as it being physical, I think it’s just a regular Killeen-Ellison game regardless of who’s in the district or not.”
Long scored the first four points and McCray followed with a 3 as Killeen opened the second half on a 7-0 run to cut the Eagles’ lead back down to nine, 37-28. Black scored back-to-back buckets for the Eagles and Killeen didn’t get the lead below 10 until Mikell Clark’s layup made it 55-47 with 2:48 left.
The Roos had chances as Ellison went scoreless from the 3:40 mark of the fourth until King made a pair of free throws with 1:40 to go. But McCray missed a couple of layups and Long missed two free throws during the Eagles’ scoreless stretch.