By Alex Byington
By the Book
"Nurture your mind with great thoughts. To believe in the heroic makes heroes." - Benjamin Disraeli, "Coningsby"
Greatness is rare. That's why when it's reached, or within our grasp, it's time to celebrate and embrace it.
And while a single person can win dozens of individual accolades and honors, only the collective effort of a group can truly bring about something special.
A pair of Killeen-area basketball teams have just such an opportunity.
When the ball is tipped in the Harker Heights and Ellison gyms tonight, the two hosts - in this case the Heights boys and the Ellison girls - have the golden opportunity to clinch the District 12-5A title.
The Knights (25-3), who have pounded nearly every team they've played while going a perfect 10-0 in district, play host to the fourth-place A&M Consolidated at 7 p.m. The Lady Eagles (26-2, 10-2) look to avenge the lone loss in their last nine games when they host third-place Temple tonight at 7.
The Knights have cruised against a usually tough district, winning nine of the first 10 games by an average of 10.8 points - with a 63-61 victory over the Tigers at College Station representing the lone win by less than five points.
This season is even more special given where Heights was just a year ago, dropping four of the final six games under the pressure of internal strife and team discord.
The Knights have matured into a team.
During the climax of the movie "Any Given Sunday," the great Al Pacino said it best during a halftime speech about true nature of what it means to be a team, and in turn, a great teammate.
"You've got to look at the guy next to you - looking into his eyes. I think you'll see a guy that'll go that inch with you. You'll see a guy that will sacrifice himself, for this team, because he knows, when it comes down to it, you're going to do the same for him. That's a team, gentlemen. Now either we heal as a team, or we will die as individuals."
But while the district title is well within their grasp, the senior-laden Knights have even greater aspirations - like cementing their names as the greatest class to ever come out of Heights.
To do that, they'll need to remain perfect over the final four district games, securing the school's first-ever 14-0 mark and hopefully surpassing the 2006's school-record 30-win plateau.
On the girls' side, the Lady Eagles have battled personal tragedies in the death of the mother of sophomore guard Deja Pointer, and responded like only a true team can - by pulling together.
Whether it's organizing team sleepovers or going late-night bowling, all the player-organized bonding has paid off.
Since their last loss - a 47-36 decision at Temple on the same day the entire team attended the funeral for Pointer's mother - Ellison has been practically unstoppable, winning by an average of 12 points - including a 23-point victory over Belton on Monday.
Both teams, despite what could be considered a lack of any true "star" potential, are doing it through a unified effort.
And it's the team-first mentality that has the Knights and Lady Eagles on the verge of greatness.
The goal of winning is ultimately bigger than any individual points or minutes.
And for the Knights and Lady Eagles, it's that mindset that could lead to even bigger things than a district championship.
Contact Alex Byington at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7566.