WACO — When Ellison needed a play, Alberto Jones Jr. knew exactly who would provide it.
After building a 16-point halftime advantage against Duncanville, the Eagles saw their cushion shrink to five points with less than two minutes remaining in regulation.
Although the pressure was intense as Ellison attempted to make its deepest postseason run of Jones’ nine-year tenure atop the program, there was little doubt senior Dajuan Jones would handle it.
“He’s going to keep the team calm,” Alberto Jones Jr. said. “He’s our guy, and I would take him over any point guard in the state.”
With time expiring, Dajuan Jones proved his coach correct.
Duncanville cut a 32-16 deficit down to 54-49 with two minutes remaining, but Dajuan Jones drew a charge, had a pair of assists leading to easy dunks and connected on a pair of free throws, helping Ellison earn a 63-56 victory in the regional quarterfinals.
Following the win, Dajuan Jones, who finished with 13 points and five assists, admitted he was simply trying to contribute in any way he could.
“I’m just trying to do whatever I can to get the team a win,” he said. “I can’t do what I do without the team, so all that matters to me is the win.”
The victory propels the Eagles into Friday’s Region I-6A semifinal against Arlington Bowie at Fort Worth’s Wilkerson-Greines Activity Center, where the winner moves one win away from reaching the state tournament.
Having seen his 2011 and 2013 seasons end in the third round, advancing to the regional tournament was especially meaningful to Alberto Jones Jr.
“We’ve beat some tough teams in the playoffs this year,” he said. “This is a special group, but we’ve been kind of up and down all year and haven’t really played to our potential.
“But we are starting to peak at the right time, and while we know eventually it will be over with, we don’t want our run to end yet.”
The Panthers recorded the game’s opening basket, but Ellison (28-7) responded with an 11-4 run before taking a 18-12 advantage into the second quarter behind a pair of 3-pointers from Dajuan Jones.
Then, the Eagles’ defense held Duncanville (26-8) without a field goal until the final 75 seconds of the period as their lead ballooned to 32-16 by halftime.
But the Panthers opened the third quarter with a 8-2 run and trailed by just five points, 43-38, by the end of the period. Ellison pushed its advantage back to double-digits, 54-44, but Duncanville had one final surge.
Dajuan Jones ensured the rally was in vain, though.
“He’s a great leader,” Ellison junior Casey Armour said. “He just carried us to a great win.”
Armour finished with a team-high 14 points to go with 12 rebounds, while teammates Travian Wright and Ronald Williams Jr. each tallied a dozen points in the win.
Now, the Eagles turn their attention toward winning the regional championship, but not before they enjoy their achievement.
“We’re going to celebrate this tonight,” Dajuan Jones said, “but then we’re get back to focusing on our next opponent.
“It’s the same thing we’ve been doing since the playoffs started.”