In a reserve role, Ellison High School junior guard Antonio Martin scored 10 fourth-quarter points and led the Eagles to a thrilling 61-58 home win over Buda Hays on Tuesday night.
The 6-foot-1 Martin had a team-high 15 points, including three second-half treys.
“I was feeling it,” said Martin. “My teammates started getting me open and so I felt I had to knock down those shots.”
Of Martin’s performance, teammate Malik Malone said, “Once he gets a little confidence like he had tonight — watch out. Sometimes it takes him a little while to light it up. But once he gets it going, like he did tonight, you have to constantly watch out for him.”
Hays was ahead 44-42 with 5:43 left to play when Martin drilled a 23-footer to give Ellison the lead.
Trailing the Rebels 51-49 with 3:01 left, Martin buried another trey to again give Ellison back the lead.
Just 10 seconds later, Eagles forward Shaqur Martin outfought two Rebels for the defensive board and dished the rock to senior point guard Knigel Key. Key saw Martin open for a 15-footer, made a sweet dish to Martin — and then Martin buried that shot, too.
The game was knotted at 56 with 1:34 to play. Then Key hit a free throw to give Ellison the lead, and Malone went 4 of 4 from the free throw line in the final 13 seconds to help ensure the win.
For the contest, Malone scored eight points, all from the charity stripe. He was a perfect 8 for 8.
“That’s why we get here at seven in the morning,” said Malone, a 6-5 starting forward. “We get here and practice and spend a lot of time on our free throws so when it’s crunch time, we’ll hit them.”
In those precarious final 15 seconds with the contest still in doubt, Eagles six-year head coach Alberto Jones, Jr. made certain—with Hays in a must-foul situation—that the ball was in Malone’s hands.
“Malone is our go-to guy for free throws,” Jones explained. “He stepped up when it counted and knocked down those big free throws for us. He did what we expected him to do.”
Hays was the early aggressor taking a 15-5 lead halfway through the first quarter.
“We got in transition and we made the early stops,” said Hays first-year head coach Robert Lucero.
Hays (5-3) led 18-11 after one quarter of play.
Just 15 seconds into the second quarter, Eagles power forward Ronnie Edwards grabbed an offensive rebound, drew a defender and then made a nifty dish to teammate 6-foot-7 Fred Jackson—who promptly brought the crowd to its feet with a magnificent two-handed power dunk.
That play seemed to fire up the Eagle players, too, and the Hays lead at halftime was just 28-26.
Trailing Hays 35-31 with 3:59 left in the third quarter, Martin made a backcourt steal, dribbled upcourt past three defenders, banked home a short jumper and that Rebel lead was just two.
With 2:31 left in the quarter and the score tied at 37, Martin took a crosscourt pass from freshman center Isiah Jasey, and swished a 3-pointer. Ellison (3-1) led 42-39 heading into the final frame.
“This was an exciting game,” said Lucero, whose team was led in scoring with 15 points from forward Heath Agnew. “Ellison is a very talented team. Once they were able to set their defense, we weren’t able to run as much and score in transition. Ellison is a tall team that also gets good guard play. They are also very deep.”
For Ellison, Key had nine points, Shaqur Martin and Edwards scored eight apiece, Shannon Bogues had six and Jasey four.
Well balanced, certainly. But the star of the game was clearly Antonio Martin. Sure, the fans noticed. But more importantly, so did Martin’s coach.
“Tony Martin can play,” said Jones. “He didn’t get a lot of minutes the first game this season but he’s been working his tail off to get more minutes. He can shoot real well. I told him if I had a game ball I would have given it to him tonight because he played his tail off. He’s been working, working and working and it’s paying off for him.”
And, of course, it’s paying off for the Ellison Eagles.
Contact Allan Mandell at email@example.com or 254-501-7566