Alberto Jones Jr. did not like the finish, but he was pleased with the outcome.
After a two-week hiatus, Class 6A No. 13 Ellison resumed its District 8-6A schedule Tuesday, and the Eagles quickly found their rhythm against visiting Copperas Cove.
Ellison held a double-digit lead early in the second quarter before inflating the cushion to 55-42 with less than a minute remaining in the third period.
Then, the Bulldawgs put together a rally, pulling within a single point, but the Eagles held on for a narrow 68-65 victory, and following the win, Ellison’s head coach admitted the contest did not conclude as he hoped.
“We need to bottle up everything we did in the first 28 minutes of the game,” Jones said, “and we’ve got to change what we did in the final four minutes.
“We have to learn from this, and play under control, because when Copperas Cove started speeding up and playing helter skelter, we started doing it with them. We’ve got to be able to play our style regardless of how the other team is playing.”
Despite the contest coming down to the wire with Copperas Cove getting off a pair of potential game-tying 3-pointers as time was expiring, the Eagles (20-2, 2-0) never trailed in the contest.
Nevertheless, Ellison guard Casey Armour, who scored a game-high 21 points, agrees with his coach, believing the experience must serve a purpose.
“This was a big game,” the senior said, “but we have to learn from our late-game mistakes and keep pushing forward.”
The Eagles scored seven of the game’s first nine points and held a 14-9 advantage following the first quarter. Ellison’s lead inflated to 29-13 as senior guard Kadarius Green connected on a pair of free throws with 3 minutes, 44 seconds remaining in the half.
The Bulldawgs cut the deficit to eight points, 34-26, early in the third quarter, but the Eagles responded with a 10-2 run, and they took a 57-44 lead into the final period.
Then, Copperas Cove (22-2, 1-1) began its surge.
With five players producing at least four points in the quarter, the Bulldawgs maneuvered their way within three points, 61-58, for the first time since trailing 3-0 on Tyrese Taylor's layup. Ellison extended its advantage to 66-61 with 1:28 remaining, however, but Quinton Ford recorded consecutive baskets for Copperas Cove to create a 66-65 contest.
Armour made a pair of free throws with 33.1 seconds left to open the Eagles’ lead to three points, and the Bulldawgs could not force overtime on the game’s final possession, losing for first time since Nov. 21.
“We did a much better job in the second half of limiting Ellison to one shot,” Copperas Cove head coach Billy White Jr. said. “I’m proud of my guys and the fight they had, especially in the second half, and we had a chance at the end.
“That’s all I can ask for.”
Along with his scoring, Armour added five rebounds and a pair of assists for Ellison, while Green finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds in the victory. Tyrese Cooley scored a team-high 15 points for the Bulldawgs, and Ford and Neyland Block contributed 13 and 12 points, respectively.
Now, the Eagles turn their attention to Friday’s contest at Harker Heights, and while Jones is hoping for the same outcome, he also wants a different finish.
“One thing we’re going to be working on is late-game situations,” he said. “We’ve got to handle the pressure at those times better."
TUESDAY’S HIGH SCHOOL BOYS SCORES
- No. 13 Ellison 68, Copperas Cove 65
- Harker Heights 77, San Angelo Central 74, OT (Gooding 38 pts, 5 3s for Knights)
- Shoemaker 61, Belton 49
- Waco Midway 81, Killeen 45
- Waco Connally 92, Gatesville 41
- Burnet 48, Salado 41
TUESDAY’S HIGH SCHOOL GIRLS SCORES
- Florence 46, Hill Country Christian 16
- Lampasas 43, 2A-No. 20 San Saba 41 (seventh straight win for LHS)