ITALY — It was a minor outburst, but it had major implications.
For nearly the entire first half, Ellison and Class 6A No. 10 Allen went back and forth, exchanging the lead 11 times and sharing six ties.
Then, Allen changed the entire complexion of the game.
In the closing minutes of the second quarter, Allen went on a 9-2 run, and it was too much to overcome as Ellison lost 65-54 in the Region I-6A quarterfinals.
While the surge only created a seven-point halftime deficit for Ellison, it felt like much more according to head coach Alberto Jones Jr.
“They are so good and so sound,” he said, “that was like a 20-point lead for most teams.
“Then, our guys were just trying so hard to make up that deficit in one possession instead of just chipping away.”
Ellison pulled within four points as Chandler Sutton found Casey Armour for a 3-pointer, making the score 37-33 in the third quarter, but it could not get any closer as Allen repeated its first-half closing act.
Allen used a 14-3 run to bridge the third and fourth quarters and never looked back, capitalizing on its free-throw opportunities late in the game as Ellison was forced to foul.
Although Jones gives Allen (30-5) plenty of credit, he believes his players did not help the situation.
“We got a little rattled,” he said. “We made some mistakes and turned the ball over. There were a lot of unforced turnovers.
“We knew they were a good team that could force turnovers, but we just had a lot of self-inflicted turnovers.”
Ellison (32-5) also struggled to make shots at times.
After connecting on nearly half of its field-goal attempts (6 of 13) in the first quarter, Ellison was just 6 of 19 from the floor in the second and third quarters combined.
Sutton, however, was on target for most of the contest.
The guard made 4 of 8 3-pointers en route to a team-high 15 points, and Jones feels the performance was merely a sign of things to come for the junior.
“That is going to great for him,” Jones said. “He’s going to be able to use that, bottle up that feeling and keep working over the offseason, because he is going to be one of our main guys next year.”
Sutton is one of only four players set to return next year as the loss concluded the high school careers of 10 seniors, including Armour, who scored 13 points in his finale with Ellison.
“I wouldn’t trade that kid for the world,” Jones said. “He is Ellison basketball. He is our heart and soul.”
Senior forward Avantae Bell complemented Ellison’s double-digit scorers with seven points, four rebounds and four blocks, while teammate Kadarius Green, a senior, scored six points.
While the defeat is difficult, Jones could not be happier with the season.
“After we lost all those seniors last year,” he said, “nobody thought we could win 32 games, win a district title and go three rounds in the playoffs, and if anybody predicted that, I’d like to go to Las Vegas with them and win some money.
“We did what nobody expected us to do, and we did it with nine guys who were first-year varsity players. I couldn’t be any more proud.”