Demarius Cress stole the ball, exploded down the court and toward the hoop as Kyle Battle trailed behind, trying desperately to make up ground.
The Belton senior leaped off-balance, trying to take a swipe at the ball as Cress laid it off the glass. The two collided in the air and Cress went down, sliding head first underneath the padding on the wall. Losing his balance, Battle fell into him. The Killeen sophomore laid motionless for a second, then his entire body went into a seizure. After it stopped, Cress was carried out on a stretcher and taken to Darnall Army Medical Center for tests and observation.
“We were a little shaken up. We didn’t know what was going on. The (team) could see from afar, but ... it freaks the kids out,” Killeen coach Reggie Huggins said. “We just tried to keep focused and said our prayers and believed he was going to be all right.
“(After the game), his mom said he was OK. He is still getting looked at by the doctors. So, I think everything is going to be fine. We really don’t know, but he is out indefinitely. I know he is thinking about us right now, but he needs to focus on him getting himself better.”
Up 13-9 with 1:42 remaining in the first quarter, Killeen had to finish the game without Cress, last year’s District 8-4A newcomer of the year. The Roos responded with a 7-0 run and defeated Belton 81-65 at Killeen High on Tuesday.
“Killeen was playing with emotion because of Cress,” Belton coach Charlie Lewis said. “You could tell they were playing with more determination and passion because of what transpired.”
Killeen junior Brian Long was nervous as he watched his teammate lay still from the other side of the court.
“We were real nervous. We sat there and held each other’s hands and prayed for him,” Long said. “We just asked God to watch over him and said we were going to work hard and hustle on the court for Cress tonight.”
Daniel Mills, though, didn’t make it easy for the Roos (17-14, 6-4 8-5A).
The senior wing dropped 43 points on Killeen, including 14 points in a second-quarter barrage. Mills hit a 3-pointer with 4:28 in the second quarter that put Belton up 27-25.
“You have good players in this district,” Huggins said. “And we either fouled him or he made it, but one guy can’t win a game.”
Belton’s lead, though was short-lived.
Mills, who had scored 20 of the Tigers’ 28 points in the quarter, was called for a technical foul, and was sent to the bench with three fouls. Killeen ended the half on a 15-3 run, taking a 42-31 lead at the half.
Belton (8-20, 2-8) never pulled closer than seven points again, even though Mills kept on scoring. Mills finished 12-of-18 from the floor and 16-of-17 from the free-throw line in the loss.
“We made some critical turnovers and they kill you, especially underneath the basket,” Lewis said. “But I told my guys they have to keep fighting hard and Daniel was on fire tonight. I told them to keep feeding him. ... That is what he is capable of doing.”
Melvin Anthony converted a three-point play with 3:35 left in the third to put the Roos up 50-37 and Brian Long scored 15 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter to seal the win for the Roos.
“We just gave a good effort for Cress,” Long said. “Everyone was into the game. ... I came out a little rusty in the second half and told myself I needed to score some points and help this team get it done.”
Contact Nick Talbot at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7569