Earlier this year, Killeen coach Reggie Huggins and guard Demarius Cress sat down to have a little talk. And for the guard, the news that he was going to be coming off the bench didn’t come easy.
Huggins did reassure Cress that he would be getting starter minutes and be in the game during crunch time. During Killeen’s biggest game to date, the junior delivered.
Cress scored a team-high 17 points coming off the bench to help the Killeen Kangaroos open District 8-5A play with a 56-42 win over the Shoemaker Grey Wolves on Tuesday at the Killeen gym.
“At first I wasn’t feeling it until the season started to progress,” Cress said. “I started being there in the crunch-time moments and producing for my team.”
Shane Johnson led the Grey Wolves with 18 points.
“We didn’t do a lot of stuff right today,” Shoemaker coach Emund Prichett said.
Cress did his part in helping stem a late Shoemaker run.
Killeen (11-3, 1-0 District 8-5A) led by as many as 17 points in the third quarter, but a Johnson 3-pointer sparked an 8-0 Grey Wolves (7-3, 0-1) run that cut Killeen’s lead to 44-36 with 4:24 remaining in the game.
From there Cress came up with a 3-pointer of his own, hit two consecutive free throws and helped put the game away with a steal and assist to University of Texas-Pan Am signee Brian Long for a layup that made it 54-38 Killeen with a minute remaining.
“He put in the work, does what we ask him to do, he’s successful and we’re successful,” Huggins said.
He may not start the game on the court, but Cress admitted that there’s nothing like the sweet sound of hearing Huggins call him to get into the game.
“It’s like music to my ears,” Cress said. “(I) get ready to give my team all I’ve got.”
Cress scored seven points in the fourth quarter and opened the game just as strong.
After a 3-pointer from Johnson made it 8-5 Shoemaker, Cress converted on consecutive free throws and hit his first shot from beyond the arc to give Killeen a 10-8 lead with 2:11 remaining in the quarter.
Cress’ shot gave Killeen a lead it wouldn’t relinquish and he added another 3-pointer with three seconds left in the first quarter that made it 20-11 after the opening frame.
“We’ve got to be tougher,” Prichett said. “That’s what I saw.”
After the opening quarter, the pace of the game slowed as the Roos used their defense to keep Shoemaker’s post out of the paint and limit the Grey Wolves’ opportunities.
Shoemaker shot just 23 percent (3 of 13) from the field in the second and third quarters, but Killeen also saw its struggles from the floor shooting 21 percent (3 of 14).
“We tried to keep them out of the paint,” Huggins said. “That’s where they want to be, that’s what they’re good at. We tried to make sure that we held the paint and held strong so that their big guys couldn’t get active and get going.”
University of Arkansas-Fort Smith signee Melvin Anthony provided a big defensive play for the Roos late in the third.
After Shoemaker post Torenzo Saunders came up with a steal, he passed the ball to guard Patrick Mark for what appeared to be an easy layup until Anthony came in from behind to block the shot.
Shoemaker’s ensuing rebound and putback attempt got deflected and fell out of bounds.
The block helped Killeen take a 36-21 lead into the fourth quarter.
“They know that every play, every time we go up or down this court, is important,” Huggins said. “Melvin saw that we needed to get a block.”
Killeen junior Mikell Clark also had a strong game coming off the bench with 10 points while Saunders added eight points for the Grey Wolves.
Killeen’s bench combined for 23 points while the Shoemaker reserves were held to just eight.