Malik Hawkins leaned back and shot the ball through the outstretched arms of two Copperas Cove defenders.
It did not matter how well he was guarded.
The ball still did exactly what the first three of Hawkins’ shots did — hit nothing but net.
The Ellison senior guard hit four 3-pointers in the opening four minutes Friday and led the Eagles to a 83-75 win over visiting Copperas Cove.
“Malik is locked in right now,” Ellison head coach Alberto Jones said. “This might be the best Malik has played. He is locked in and if he is open he is going to make it right now.”
Ellison (22-3, 3-0 8-5A) didn’t have a problem with Cove’s fast pace as it jumped out to a 10-2 lead behind the first two of Hawkins’ six 3-pointers.
“(Hawkins) just came out shooting unconsciously,” Copperas Cove coach Billy White said. “He hit some shots with hands in his face and when you have night like that, you have a night like that.
“We tried to not even let him catch it. He just had a big quarter right there.”
Cory Scott and Rashard Odomes, who along with Deion Robinson led Cove with 19 points, both hit shots as the Bulldawgs (13-7, 1-2)
answered with a 9-2 run.
Hawkins, who along with Ojai Black led Ellison with 23 points, was not done. The senior hit two more 3s — the last one with a man in his face and drifting back — to put Ellison up 18-11.
“It is real important (to shoot the ball well) against a team like Cove,” Hawkins said. “We wanted to get in there and kill them early.”
Ellison took a 25-18 lead into the second quarter, but Cove slowly cut away at it.
Cedric Carlisle hit a pair of 3-pointers and had two blocks to get Cove going. The second trey cut the Ellison lead to 40-36 with less than two minutes in the half.
“We were able to rebound the basketball and play some sets,” White said. “We just didn’t make shots ... and once we figured out how to defense Malik we played pretty good defense.”
But Cove never got closer than three points. And Hawkins one more time made them pay for not rotating properly when King kicked it to him on the wing and he drained a 3-pointer as the third quarter buzzer sounded.
“It is real good to have (Malik) because it takes pressure off the ball handlers because they won’t pressure as muich if you got a shooter in the corner,” Ellison point guard Tyree King said.
The long-range shot put Ellison up 59-53. The Eagles extended their lead to 65-56 with 5:30 left in the fourth quarter when Hawkins found Black slashing to the basket.
“We hit a couple of timely shots and guarded a little bit better (in the fourth quarter),” Jones said. “When you are giving up 70-plus points it is way too much, but we got a couple of big stops when we needed to.”
Ellison put the game away from there, hitting 14 of 18 from the free-throw line in the final frame as Cove was forced the foul. King, who scored 15 points, was the biggest benefactor. He had 15 points and hit 7-of-8 from the line in the fourth quarter.
Scott, who had a rough night shooting but still managed to finish with 18 points, nailed a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
It was just too late. The shot only made the score a bit closer.
“There was a lot of hype for this game and we had to prove we are No. 1 (in 8-5A) for a reason,” King said. “Coach said if we lost this game we would have fallen back with the rest of the district and we couldn’t let that happen.”
Contact Nick Talbot at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7569