It was a valuable lesson.
Playing in its last game before embarking on a run through the Class 6A postseason bracket, Ellison encountered a team facing a must-win situation in Copperas Cove.
For a half, the Eagles found themselves in a battle. Then, everything changed.
After entering halftime with a slim two-point advantage, Ellison dominated the third quarter, outscoring the Bulldawgs 22-7 in the period en route to a 71-56 victory.
Having now survived against a team playing for its life, Ellison head coach Alberto Jones Jr. believes it can only benefit the Eagles during the playoffs.
“This was big,” he said, “because in the first half, Copperas Cove played like it was in a must-win situation, and we played like we just wanted to get the game over with. But in the second half, we played like it was a playoff game.
“But we have to do that for a whole game, because if we just play for a half a game again, it will be our last game.”
Ellison junior Shamir Bogues, who posted a game-high 25 points, seven steals and four rebounds in the win, agreed.
“The refs were calling it tight,” the guard said, “and that’s how it is going to be in the playoffs, so this was a really good experience.”
The Eagles, who secured District 12-6A’s second seed with the victory and Waco’s 65-42 win against Waco Midway, will open the postseason against Longview next week.
During the first half, however, it appeared Ellison (26-7, 13-3) could be destined for a different outcome.
The squads went back and forth early on with Copperas Cove taking a 16-11 lead into the second quarter, but the cushion was quickly deflated as the Eagles opened the period with a 10-2 outburst spearheaded by Bogues, who scored all 10 of his first-half points in the quarter.
The Bulldawgs rebounded, claiming a 29-25 lead, but their momentum ended there.
Ellison closed the quarter with six unanswered points, triggering a 34-7 run spanning into the fourth quarter, and Copperas Cove (20-15, 7-9) could not recover as its playoff hopes ended with the loss.
“That just shows how good we can be,” Eagles guard Trendon Stewart said. “If we play all game like we did in the second half, then we can make some noise in the playoffs.”
Ellison senior Amir Davis complemented Bogues’ outing with a 15-point, eight-rebound, five-assist showing, while teammates Nehemiah Nuckolls and Chandler Sutton each produced double-digit offense, scoring 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Quinton Ford, a senior, posted a team-high 23 points for Copperas Cove, while fellow senior Tyrese Taylor finished with 13 points and six rebounds.
Now, with a taste of what to expect in the playoffs, the Eagles intend to be ready.
“We just want to prepare our bodies both mentally and physically,” Stewart said. “It’s all about working and sleeping.”
ELLISON 71, COPPERAS COVE 56
Copperas Cove (56)
Ford 23, Taylor 13, Sobers 7, Corbin 4, Dewald 3, Gaillard 2, Hewing 2, Ellison 2.
Bogues 25, Davis 15, Nuckolls 11, Sutton 10, Stewart 6, Grant 2, Rose 2.
Copperas Cove 16 13 7 20—56
Ellison 11 20 22 18—71
3-Point Goals–Copperas Cove 3 (Ford, Dewald, Sobers), Ellison 2 (Sutton 2). Free Throws–Copperas Cove 23-31, Ellison 15-23. Fouled Out–Hewing. Total Fouls–Copperas Cove 19, Ellison 19. Technicals–Davis.
Records–Copperas Cove 20-15, 7-9 12-6A; Ellison 26-7, 13-3.
TUESDAY'S 12-6A SCORES
- Ellison 71, Copperas Cove 56
- No. 17 Shoemaker 69, Belton 53
- Waco 65, Waco Midway 42
- Harker Heights 95, Killeen 84