At the conclusion of its bi-district victory over DeSoto, the Class 6A defending state champion, on Tuesday at McLennan Community College in Waco, Ellison head coach Alberto Jones Jr. was already on to the next game.
“We were obviously excited about it,” Jones said. “Winning any playoff game is an accomplishment, and beating the state champions makes it even sweeter. But it was a win-or-go-home situation where a lot of teams are on vacation today, and it feels good to advance.
“We’re playing two games a week, so you don’t have a lot of time to celebrate.”
Against DeSoto, Ellison’s defense was key. Ellison held its opponent to just two first-quarter points and won 53-41.
“I thought the kids came out and executed well defensively — played hard,” Jones said. “They all just kind of did their job, and we were fortunate they missed a couple shots, too.”
It’s sometimes better to be lucky than good, especially in the playoffs. Ellison (26-7) has been both all season.
Senior point guard Dajuan Jones commandeered the effort against DeSoto, as he led Ellison with 20 points. But it took a lot more than its standout guard to take down the defending state champs.
Junior Casey Armour was a man possessed, according to the head coach. Offensively, Armour tallied 15 points, but his contributions were felt in all phases of the game.
“Casey was so focused, and he was focused all week for that game,” Jones said. “He went out there, scored some baskets, got some key rebounds for us, defended well, got some blocked shots — he did a lot of things for us.”
And, according to Dajuan Jones, senior wing Travian Wright was the difference maker. Coach Jones said Ellison girls basketball coach Sherry McKinnon congratulated Dajuan Jones afterward, and the point guard pointed to Wright and said, “He’s the reason we won.”
“He was the unsung hero of the day,” the head coach said. “I think he had 12 rebounds, and he made two crucial free throws. For his size (6-foot-1), and his knee still is not 100 percent from last year’s torn ACL, he just battles down there with the big guys.
“He played with a lot of guts and a lot of grit.”
Ellison will now face Plano West, the very team that won the state championship two years ago, in the area round at 7 p.m. tonight at Hillsboro.
The Wolves (21-12) are led by senior guard Ryan Birt and 6-4 forward Alec Seyfetdinov, but their talent seems endless.
“They’re real fundamentally sound from top to bottom,” Jones said. “They zone, they play hard and they’re a real sound team that’s not going to beat themselves. They’ve got about six or seven guys that could be their leading scorer on any given night.
“We’ve got to treat them all with the same respect.”
Luckily, Ellison is also a complete team.
With the aforementioned Jones, Armour and Wright, the list of Eagles who contribute in a myriad of ways is long. That list includes seniors Mike Aranda, Joshua Childs, Taquarri Smith, Charles Evans and Ronald Williams Jr.; juniors Marvin Caines, Kadarius Green and Elijah Moleon; and sophomore Amir Davis.
“We’ve just got to stay focused and take it one game at a time,” coach Jones said. “Like I said Tuesday, we were fortunate enough to get that win over DeSoto. We enjoyed it, and now we’ve got to get ready for the next game.”