The longest-running crosstown boys hoops rivalry continues tonight when the Ellison Eagles face the Killeen Kangaroos for the second time in District 8-6A play at 7 p.m.
Killeen is walking in with a chip on its shoulder and is out for redemption.
“We can’t wait to get them in our house,” senior guard Montego Muckelvaney said following the Roos’ 75-63 loss at Ellison on Jan. 9.
The game is important for both teams. Killeen (11-15, 5-5 8-6A), tied for fourth place with Belton, looks to bolster its playoff hopes while the second-place Eagles (26-4, 8-2) have their eyes set on the district title. Ellison is a game behind No. 23 Waco Midway with four games remaining, including a home game against the Panthers on Feb. 9.
Muckelvaney returned to the Roos’ lineup Tuesday after missing the rematch against No. 23 Waco Midway last Friday on a football recruiting visit and combined for 38 points with junior guard Cortez Ivie in Killeen’s 65-63 comeback win over seventh-place San Angelo Central.
“(Muckelvaney) and Cortez Ivie probably played one of the best one-two punch-type games we played against San Angelo Central the other night,” head coach Reggie Huggins said.
Two of the last three road games for Ellison have ended in losses, against Midway and Shoemaker, but the Eagles are determined to catch up and earn the title of district champion.
“I think those two losses, especially that loss to Shoemaker, I think that was a enough to keep them motivated because these guys had high goals in district,” head coach Alberto Jones Jr. said of his team’s initial goal of going 14-0 in district.
“Obviously we won’t get that, but they’re smart enough kids and they know exactly what’s at stake, so there’s not really anything left to say or do to keep them focused.”
After the Eagles’ 76-67 victory at home against Harker Heights on Tuesday, Jones and his team appeared unconcerned about heading across town.
“They’re all big rivalries — Shoemaker, Heights, Killeen — I couldn’t say one is bigger than the other,” Jones said. “We want to win district, so we can’t lose anymore, whether it was Killeen or Heights or Cove or Dallas Kimball.
“Whoever it is, we’ve just got to play.”
While Ellison is choosing to view it as just another game, Killeen players are “very excited.”
“That rivalry has been going on for so many years and this game is very important to them,” Huggins said of the rivalry. “This game is very important to us.
“Both teams come in hungry, both are well-coached teams, both teams are ready to get after each other, both teams got something to prove, just two different ways and it will all go down here at Killeen High.”