Ellison head coach Alberto Jones called No. 4 South Grand Prairie the “total package.”
But that doesn’t mean the Eagles are shaking in their boots in preparation for today’s 7:30 p.m. 5A regional quarterfinal game against the Warriors at Corsicana High School.
“I think the name Duncanville caught our guys’ attention more than South Grand Prairie,” Jones said.
One reason that Ellison (29-6) isn’t all that worried is because they watched District 8-5A rival Harker Heights nearly upset South Grand Prairie (33-3) in their bi-district game last Tuesday.
Using a slow-and-steady offense and a stifling defense, Heights kept the Warriors off balance until the fourth quarter, leading 29-24 with 7:12 remaining before SGP closed out the game on a 6-1 run for the 35-30 victory.
But despite the Knights’ success, the Eagles have no intention to reinvent the wheel.
“We’ve got some different stuff planned, but for the most part we’re going to do what we do,” said Jones, who admitted he hasn’t even viewed video from that game.
But given their experience fending off both Duncanville (51-46) and Flower Mound (61-52), Jones believes his team has what it takes to pull off the upset its crosstown rivals couldn’t.
Ellison overcame small deficits in both playoff wins, outscoring Flower Mound 28-14 in the second and third quarters after trailing 18-10 at the end of the first on Friday and fell down 36-29 to Duncanville before an 11-0 run between the third and fourth quarters spurred a comeback win last Monday.
“They know it’s going to be a challenge, but they’re up for the challenge,” Jones said of the Eagles players.
Rare late deficit
doesn’t faze Salado
The No. 16 Salado Eagles were in unfamiliar territory.
After a season where if they won by only 15 points they were “mad,” the Eagles trailed Marlin by 12 late in the third quarter of their area-round playoff game on Friday.
But as Salado head coach Kenny Mann looked at his players, he didn’t see panic.
“I never saw too much frustration on their faces, they always had that look of ‘We’re going to do what we have to to get this done,’” Mann said. “I think that gives me and them confidence coming into this next game that whatever happens, we’re going to battle and find a way to get it done.”
The Eagles (27-8) rallied to beat Marlin, 59-56, and advanced to play Trinity (24-10) at Brenham High School tonight at 7 in their first regional quarterfinal playoff game since 2005, when they reached the 2A state semifinals.
“I think as a team we felt like we shouldn’t have got ourselves in the bind that we did, but at the same time, they (the Marlin Bulldogs) had a lot to do with it,” Mann said. “They came out and played real well and I’m still just really proud of the fight my guys showed and battling back.”
Salado closed the third quarter on an 8-2 run and scored the first four points of the fourth to cut Marlin’s 12-point lead to two, 49-47, with 6½ minutes left. Dane Hankamer gave Salado its first lead on a layup with 1:34 left and the Eagles shut the door by outscoring Marlin 5-3 in the final minute.
Trinity will be a similar opponent to Marlin. Trinity, which has better team speed, Mann said, likes to press defensively and push the ball offensively, much like Marlin.
Senior point guard Davion Oliphant (14.4 points, 7.2 assists per game) “is probably the best guard we’ve seen so far this year,” Mann said. “He’s really quick and does a great job creating for the rest of his team.”
And 6-foot-5 senior post JaMarqus McCullough averages 20.5 points and just under 10 rebounds a game.
The duo is similar to the Marlin duo of wing Ladarian Hopwood and post Mangle Womack. Hopwood scored 23 of his 30 points in the first half and Womack finished with 14.
“Until we played Marlin, early in the season we saw some real athletic teams, but during the course of district we didn’t see anybody like Marlin. So playing them is definitely going to help us against Trinity,” Mann said.