HILLSBORO — Ellison has started to invest themselves in playing stout defense, and it has showed in the playoffs.
After defeating DeSoto 53-41 in the bi-district round of the Class 6A postseason in Waco on Tuesday, the Eagles dropped Plano West 53-40 on Friday in the area round.
Ellison head coach Alberto Jones Jr. said it’s better late than never for the Eagles to stiffen up on the defensive end.
“We’re finally starting to embrace defense,” Jones said. “We kind of liked it, but we didn’t. But now, these guys are starting to embrace it, and we’re holding people under a certain amount of points and guarding people.
“This is the perfect time for them to start embracing it.”
Junior wing Casey Armour said Ellison has completely bought in on defense.
“Just being alert on defense and actually love playing defense,” Armour said. “In practice, he tells us to just play. Instead of being so offensive-minded, just actually play defense.
“Defense wins championships, of course, and that’s what we’re doing.”
Friday’s win also happened to be the 200th triumph of Jones’ career.
“Two hundred wins is a great feeling,” Jones said, “but it’s a greater feeling to get to the third round. Two hundred is just kind of the cherry on top, but getting it with this group ... I wanted to make sure I got to do it with this group right here.
“Next year would have been special, too, but this group – we’ve been through a whole lot together.”
West took an early 7-6 lead, but the Eagles finished the first quarter on a 5-0 run thanks to a free throw by Armour, a driving floater by Mike Aranda and a wrap-around layup at the buzzer by Aranda.
Ellison’s run was extended to 9-0 after the Eagles opened the second period with a transition layup by Aranda and another layup by Travian Wright off a driving dish from Dajuan Jones. The Eagles led 15-7 with 5 minutes, 48 seconds left till halftime.
But the Wolves had a spark in them.
Two free throws by Ryan Zambie opened a 7-3 spurt for West, and Zambie also ended the surge with a field goal from the left block after an entry pass from Doak Kuhne.
Trailing 22-14 with 1:39 remaining in the second, the Wolves finished the half on a 6-2 run. Alec Seyfetdinov opened the outburst with a driving layup while being fouled for a 3-point play, and Kuhne hit a 3-pointer from the right wing after a kickout by Zambie to make the score 24-20, Ellison, at the break.
But the second half was all Eagles, and it got out of hand in a hurry.
West scored the first two points of the second half on a field goal from the right block by John David Zogg, but Ellison exploded on a 13-0 run to finish the third stanza for a 37-22 advantage.
Jones opened the run with a jumper in the lane before Aranda nailed a trey from the right corner.
Armour scored from the left block and was fouled for a 3-point play, and Aranda made two free throws.
Aranda then ended the eruption with a 3 from the left corner.
Aranda finished the night with 20 points to go along with three rebounds and two steals, and he said afterward the Eagles were prepared for the Wolves after playing them earlier in the season at the Spring Creek Classic in Mansfield.
“We lost by five in that one,” Aranda said. “We knew what they were doing tonight, so in practice we worked on breaking their zone and having me knock down some shots. We just made that happen tonight.”
West attempted to get back in the game with a litany of fouls in the fourth quarter, but Ellison went 11 of 18 from the charity stripe down the stretch to win by 13.
Jones ended the evening with 16 points, two rebounds and four assists for the Eagles, and Armour added 11 points, four rebounds, two assists and one blocked shot. Wright tallied three points, but was a force on the glass with seven boards.
Ellison’s next matchup will be against Duncanville in the quarterfinal round.