Ellison is known for its basketball program, and this season was no different.
The Eagles went 11-3 in District 8-6A (25-7 overall) and finished tied as the second seed with Waco Midway. Now, they will play DeSoto in the bi-district round of the Class 6A playoffs Tuesday at 7 p.m. at McClennan Community College in Waco.
It marked the third consecutive time Ellison has reached the postseason and 22nd in its last 23 seasons. But it wasn’t easy.
The league was highly competitive in 2016-17, as the Eagles’ three losses occurred against Copperas Cove, Midway and Shoemaker. However, none of their losses in 8-6A were by more than three points, and none of their seven losses throughout the entire season were by more than five.
“We lost some tough ones,” Ellison head coach Alberto Jones Jr. said. “We were in every game, with a couple of them we just couldn’t pull out. I thought, all in all, we’ve had a pretty good season.”
A big reason for the Eagles’ success has been point guard Dajuan Jones, a four-year letterman who has provided a tranquil presence.
“It’s one of those things that people won’t understand how much he means to us until he’s gone,” Jones said of the senior. “A lot of the things he brings to the table, the stat sheet doesn’t show it. He gives the team a sense of calmness.
“In big games especially, he plays the whole game or 31 of the 32 minutes. He doesn’t get tired often and, just having him on the floor, we feel relaxed as coaches and I’m sure the other guys feel the same way.”
Ellison also possesses a sharpshooter in senior guard Mike Aranda, whose strong mentality allows him to come up big in key moments.
“Mike has given us just what we needed,” Jones said. “He shoots the ball incredibly well, is extremely confident and is tough. It’s a pleasure to coach a kid like Mike, and he’s a big-game player, too.
“Some kids shy away from the moment, but he embraces it.”
Six-foot-4-inch junior wing Casey Armour has filled a much-needed void for the Eagles with his athleticism and willingness to battle inside.
“Casey is probably one of the most athletic kids I’ve coached,” Jones said. “Last year, we lost Isaiah Stevenson, who was our rebounding guy. We thought we were going to fall off and didn’t know where the rebounds were going to come from.
“We’ve gotten it from Casey. When he puts his mind to it, he’s like a man possessed on the glass.”
The Eagles’ two 6-foot-7 posts, junior Elijah Moleon and senior Ronald Williams Jr., swap in and out with one another throughout the game. In reality, it’s almost as if the team has one post that never gets tired and possesses an all-around game around the rim.
“Especially over the last six, seven games, we’ve felt like we’ve had a two-headed monster,” Jones said. “One is a little more physical, bangs a little more and takes up space. The other is a little more athletic, runs a little faster and blocks shots.”
But every player has their role for Ellison, and they play their specific roles at a high level.
Jones called senior guard Joshua Childs the team’s sixth starter and a spark.
“He’s fearless,” Jones said. “He’s 5-6, 5-7, but goes inside and battles with the trees. When Josh is at his best, he’s like a little tick — one of those guys who’s always around and you can’t get rid off.”
Senior wing Travian Wright is a “glue guy” who usually guards the opposing team’s top offensive threat, and 6-foot-3 junior Marvin Caines is two people, according to Jones.
“We say we have two different Marvins — regular Marvin and maniac Marvin,” Jones said. “When he turns into maniac Marvin, he can play with anyone around the basket.”
Along with the rest of their role players, the Eagles have had a recipe for success, and they hope to continue that success in the playoffs.