FORT WORTH — Ellison started off just the way it had throughout the playoffs.
The Eagles played stingy defense to start their Region I-6A semifinal tilt against Arlington Bowie on Friday, and they built a 14-4 lead early in the second quarter.
But the Volunteers got hot and rebounded quickly, and the contest turned into a nip-and-tuck battle. In the end, Ellison struggled from the free-throw line where Bowie succeeded, and the result was a 54-51 win for the Volunteers.
Casey Armour got things started with a left-side jumper for the Eagles for a quick 2-0 lead. Kyler Edwards replied for Bowie with a transition layup to tie it up, but Ellison answered with three straight points on a free throw by Dajuan Jones and a follow-up slam dunk by Ronald Williams Jr. for a 5-2 advantage.
Cade Cunningham then made two free throws to pull Bowie 28-9) within 5-4, but the
Eagles scored the final six points of the opening period for an 11-4 lead. Jones opened the run with a driving layup, and Armour scored the next four points on a field goal from the left block and a jumper in transition.
Josh Childs opened the second stanza for Ellison (28-8) with a 3-pointer in transition from the right wing, and the Eagles were flying high with a 14-4 edge.
But the Volunteers responded swiftly and heavily.
Edwards nailed a trey off in inbound pass from Richard Robinson and, on the very next possession, Edwards finished in transition with an emphatic dunk and was fouled for a three-point play. William Roberts added another transition bucket to pull Bowie within 14-12 of Ellison with 5 minutes, 58 seconds left till halftime.
Armour made one of two free throws to end the spurt, but Bowie kept the pressure on and finished the half on a 12-5 surge for a 24-20 edge at the break.
Ellison head coach Alberto Jones Jr. said his team executed the game plan perfectly to start the game. But Edwards, who finished the night with 30 points, 10 rebounds and three blocked shots, ignited the Volunteers.
“It doesn’t take much to get a good player going,” Jones said. “We had a breakdown defensively and he hit a 3. The next play, they get a break in transition and he gets an and-1, and that just kind of triggered him.
“We knew that once he gets going, they get going — and he got going.”
The two teams were unable to separate from one another in the second half.
Elijah Moleon opened the third period with a turnaround jumper for the Eagles before Edwards made two free throws for Bowie.
Ellison then went on a 7-2 outburst that was kicked off by a putback by Armour. Mike Aranda added a trey from the left baseline, and Armour scored again on a transition layup to put the Eagles up 31-30.
Armour ended the contest with 18 points, six rebounds and two blocks.
However, Edwards helped the Volunteers answer with four points during a 6-0 run to finish the third, and Bowie took a 36-31 lead into the fourth.
With 4:08 remaining in the contest and the Volunteers clinging to a 42-39 advantage, the game was ultimately decided on free throws.
Ellison was 5 of its last 11 at the charity stripe, while Bowie went 8 of 10 down the stretch, and the end result was a three-point triumph for the Volunteers.
“A little thing like that, free throws, can make the difference between a win and a loss,” coach Jones said.
For the Eagles, Aranda registered 10 points, two rebounds and three steals. Dajuan Jones had seven points, two rebounds, four assists and two steals, and Moleon added seven points and three rebounds.
“I told the kids I’m proud of them,” coach Jones said. “We didn’t accomplish what we wanted to accomplish, but I told them that when this wears off, they have nothing to hang their heads about. They had a great run.
“I told our underclassmen that we have to bottle up this feeling right here and work in the offseason to get back here next year.”