Dajuan Jones felt it was a must-win game.
After losing at Copperas Cove Tuesday night, the senior guard knew Ellison needed to respond positively on Friday in a home tilt against Harker Heights.
“We told ourselves we had to get back on track with this one in order to win district,” Jones said. “That’s what we wanted to do — come out strong.”
The Eagles did just that.
Jones paced the team with 21 points, seven rebounds and one assist, and Ellison enjoyed a convincing 66-49 triumph over the Knights in District 8-6A action.
The biggest key to the Eagles’ win was their defense. They forced 13 turnovers, and they held Harker Heights to just two first-quarter points for an early 13-2 lead.
Jones said defense can be a catalyst for strong offensive play.
“It gets everybody points,” Jones said. “If you want to score, go get some steals and get out on the break. That’s what I tell them all the time, ‘If you play defense, you’re going to get yours.’”
Ellison head coach Alberto Jones Jr. agreed, adding the overall effort was there Friday.
“I thought it was solid,” Jones said. “After the game we played Tuesday, I think that might have been one of our worst games of the year, in all aspects of it. The most disturbing was I thought Copperas Cove really outplayed us.
“I told them, ‘We’ve got to come out here tonight and play hard. We’ve got to play hard, we’ve got to guard, and we’ll see what happens.’ I thought we did that from start to finish.”
Led by Dillon Gooding’s six points and Dashawn Walker’s five, the Knights battled back with a 16-13 second period to pull within 26-18 at halftime.
But to open the second half, Elijah Moleon scored from the right block and Mike Aranda nailed a 3-pointer from the left wing to put the Eagles (16-5, 2-1 8-6A) up 31-18 with 5 minutes, 55 seconds remaining in the third stanza.
After a timeout, Aranda again hit a trey from the left wing to cap off an 8-0 to put Ellison up by 16.
Harker Heights (10-10, 1-2) replied with a 6-0 run led by four points from Johnathan Chatman to pull within 34-24. But Jones answered for the Eagles with a three-point play after being fouled on a driving layup to put his team up 13, and the Knights were unable to get within 10 points for the remainder of the contest.
Harker Heights head coach Celneque Bobbitt was disappointed with his team’s effort Friday.
“This is the most embarrassing night in Harker Heights basketball history,” Bobbitt said. “It’s not behind the loss or anything like that, but it’s behind the effort and attitude. Those are two things I can’t deal with is a lack of effort and attitude. ...
“I’m just very disappointed with what we displayed tonight, so I’ve gotta go back and do a better job of coaching. Right now, I guess I’m not doing a very good job of coaching. I’m going to take the blame.”
Aranda registered 16 points, four rebounds and one assist for Ellison, and Casey Armour had 10 points and five rebounds.
Gooding led the Knights with 24 points and seven rebounds. Chatman tallied six points, and Shalimar Whitfield had six points and three boards.
The Eagles were 19 of 31 from the free-throw line, while Harker Heights was 16 of 26.
Ellison is scheduled to play at Killeen on Tuesday at 7 p.m., and the Knights will return home to host Copperas Cove on Tuesday at 7.