Trailing Ellison teammate James Jessie on the two-on-one fast break, Thomas Larry’s eyes bulged from behind his prescription goggles as Jessie unexpectedly dished the ball backward.
Larry slammed it home for his second two-handed dunk in a minute, dangling over Killeen’s Addison Burgess as if he was waiting for the poster to be hung on the wall.
Back on the court, Larry let out a guttural scream as the fired up Eagles closed out the final 2:36 of the second quarter on a 13-2 run, emphatically slamming the door on one of several Roos rallies
Friday in a 79-49 victory.
“To be honest, I wasn’t ready for the pass. I thought (Jessie) was just going to go up (for the layup) because that’s just what he does,” Larry said. “But when he passed it back, I said, ‘Ok, I’ll just go ahead and dunk it.’”
The win, made bigger by a lopsided 26-7 fourth quarter Ellison explosion as Killeen shot just 2-of-18 in the frame, allowed the Eagles (25-5, 10-1 8-5A) to maintain their stranglehold atop the District 8-5A standings with just three games remaining.
“We’re not going to let them take it from us, because we want it and they want it. So we just have to play,” said senior guard Tyree King, who finished with 13 points as one of four Eagles in double digits.
Hawkins led all scorers with 16 points, including a long-range 3-pointer to cap a 13-point first half, Larry added 15 points — eight in the second quarter — and 11 rebounds, while Ojai Black had 10 points.
Larry’s hang-time dunks came at just the opportune time as Killeen had pulled within 29-26 with 3:10 to play after trailing 29-16 two minutes earlier on the backend of back-to-back fast-break buckets from Ellison’s Malik Hawkins and Jessie.
“It sparked us, it got the crowd hyped, it got us hyped, and that’s what we’re known to do — it got us going,” Black said of Larry’s dunks.
But Roos forward Brian Long followed with a fastbreak layup of his own, Melvin Anthony hit a pair of free throws and Demariel Baker added six points on back-to-back-to-back possessions with three minutes to play.
“We kept fighting and fighting, but we just struggled on some plays,” said Long, who finished with 10 points. With sharpshooter Demarius Cress out after suffering a concussion in Tuesday’s win over Belton, Melvin Anthony and DeVarri McCray each led the Roos with 11 points apiece. “We really needed Demarius, ... it kind of hurt us with him not there right now.”
Killeen (17-15, 6-5), which is still fighting for a playoff spot in its first season in 5A since 2002, wouldn’t go away quietly though. The Roos opened the third quarter outscoring Ellison 10-4 to pull within 46-40 with 4:22 left in the frame.
But Larry rebounded a Devyn Williams miss and air-mailed it to a sprinting King for a fast-break layup, King scored on a jumper from the top of the key after a steal and then hit the back end of a free-throw opportunity after Killeen head coach Reggie Huggins was called for a technical foul for arguing with officials. A layup by Eagles reserve Malik Malone put Ellison ahead 53-40 with 1:42 remaining in the third as the Roos turned the ball over on five straight possessions before Burgess scored on a fastbreak with 4.2 seconds left.
Once in the fourth quarter, the Eagles began to pull away as Hawkins nailed the fourth of his four 3-pointers 45 seconds in and Larry putback a Black miss on Ellison’s fifth opportunity under the basket on that possession to spark the late charge.
“Being down by 30 is not indicative of what the true score of the game was,” Huggins said. “My kids did exactly what I needed them to do, and they shouldn’t have anything to hold their heads about. Other factors we can’t control maybe played a part.”