Killeen took on Bryan Rudder in the Bo Burgess Classic Thursday morning, inching past the Rangers behind 24 points from senior Montego Muckelvaney and junior Cortez Ivie to win 68-66.
The win propelled the Kangaroos to a second-place showing in the annual tournament.
If the first four minutes of play against the Rangers were any indicator, the game was going to be a close battle as they held each other to only two points each.
Ivie found Muckelvaney waiting under the rim, fighting through three defenders to put the ball up and Killeen ahead, and if that wasn’t enough Muckelvaney stole the ball and drove down the right lane for a dunk.
Rudder tried responding with a three-point play to get back within a point of the Roos, but senior guard Michael House found Ivie waiting on the outside.
The Rangers quickly tied the game, but junior forward Jackson Taylor hit another 3-pointer with 45 seconds left in the period.
It looked like the Roos were going to start the second quarter up by one but Rudder junior forward Bryson Workmon hit a shot right before the buzzer, giving the Rangers a 15-14 lead.
Killeen was unsatisfied with that answer and junior guard Willie McGee immediately got the ball to senior forward Trayvon Todd waiting in the post to take the lead back.
Rudder junior guard Korbin Cunningham cut that lead down with back-to-back three-point plays but
it wasn’t enough to catch Killeen, who were up 28-27 at the half.
Killeen went into the second half looking to distance themselves further from the Rangers, starting with Taylor adding another 3-pointer.
Cunningham was sent to the line where he sunk a free throw to tie the game for the second time.
Taylor attempted to pull the Roos ahead once more with another shot from the outside but was sent to the line on a foul from Cunningham. Despite the pressure, Taylor went 3-for-3.
“In the beginning of the season I couldn’t hit anything really,” Taylor said, “but now I’ve kind of found my groove.
“When I’m hitting shots, I get into a groove and I want to play defense harder and when everyone’s playing defensive that’s when everyone gets going, that’s where we get our motivation is defense.”
Late in the third quarter, the Roos gained the largest lead of the game, going up by eight points but junior guard Nicholas Smith quickly brought them back within three.
A free throw from Devion Lee tied the game once again with a minute and half left in the period. All the Roos needed was 16 seconds for Taylor to find Muckelvaney and the Roos were up by four, 47-43.
Killeen started the last eight minutes of play with Todd taking the rebound off a missed free throw to get the ball to Ivie who nailed his fourth 3-pointer of the morning to pull the Roos up by nine.
Todd helped Taylor add another three between them and the Rangers but it was Ivie’s fourth three-pointer of the game that gave Killeen a 16-point lead.
Rudder used its last timeout with three and a half minutes left to draw up a game plan. The plan worked because they went on a 11-2 run to tie the game 66-66.
Killeen inbounded the ball with 11 seconds left on the clock. The drove the ball down the court and Muckelvaney dribbled down the left, layed the ball up and secured the win with 0.7 seconds left on the clock.
“It shouldn’t have been that close,” head coach Reggie Huggins said. “But I’m proud of them.”
The morning game victory had them 3-0 heading in to face the undefeated team from the Heights bracket, Bellaire Episcopal, for the Bo Burgess Classic title.
The Killeen team that played Thursday morning did not look like the same team on the court Thursday afternoon as Episcopal won 79-43.
While Episcopal came out strong, applying full court pressure in the middle of the first quarter, the Roos shots just weren’t falling.
Killeen averaged about 37 percent at the free-throw line the entire game — 22 percent less than they averaged against Rudder.
Episcopal ran the ball early and never stopped, but once they found the weak link in Killeen’s passing game, it took full advantage every time.
By the end of the first quarter the Knights were leading 24-9.
“The lead got so big so quick,” Huggins noted, “plus they’re a well-coached team.
“They literally took the ball and just kept driving at us. We know that now, we know we got to be better now.”
Every shot Killeen took early in the second period — free throws, three pointers and layups alike — all looked as if they were going in but ended up spinning or bouncing out.
Episcopal went on a 20-0 run before Muckelvaney got the Roos momentum back up.
It wasn’t enough as the Knights only allowed for Killeen to add another 9 points before the end of the first half, leading 47-18.
Simple errors added up and Episcopal took every advantage it found. So much so that by the middle of the third quarter Killeen found themselves down by 40 points.
“We weren’t coming out fighting,” Taylor said, “until the third quarter when we decided that if we wanted to make it a respectable game, we have to fight.
“And we’re going to use that because we don’t want this to happen again and have the same outcome.”
Taylor found Ivie who knocked down another three and woke up the Roos once more. Muckelvaney added four followed by two from McGee to put Killeen down 65-25.
Ivie got kick started the Roos tempo with another shot from the outside. House found Muckelvaney in the post for a hook shot before Ivie found him again the very next play.
House then served one to Taylor waiting in the corner before he was sent to the free throw line. Calm and collected, he sunk all three shots to bring Killeen within 35 points.
They may have been down, but that didn’t stop Muckelvaney from having fun. With 41 seconds left on the clock, Muckelvaney made the most of it driving down the right lane to dunk.
While it wasn’t the outcome they wanted, Killeen will take the lesson from the 3-1 standing, appreciate the competition to help them grow but all eyes are set on what’s to come: district play.
“We have to come out fighting because on the first day back at school we have Midway,” Taylor said. “We have to come out fighting- first play, first time, first play, every play, especially on defense.”
“We’re going to win together, lose together, get blown out together just like we did tonight,” he added.
With one district game under their belt, the Roos know that their bond and team chemistry is key for the games that lie ahead.
“We have the rest of the games,” Taylor said, “and if we want to make the playoffs and hopefully be district champs, that’s what it’s going to take, being brothers.”
Rudder faced Heights for third place in the Classic. With double-digit scores from seniors Dashawn Walker, Dillon Gooding and junior Jalen Flowers, the Knights took the victory 53-50.
Neither team secured a comfortable lead as they went back and forth to tie the game five times.
Heights held the lead for most of the first quarter, but Workmon and Cunningham put the Rangers up by five in the last minute of the period, 15-10.
Knights’ Matthias Nero and Walker brought the game back within four, but it was a three-point play from Gooding to Jarius Cherry that got the crowd cheering.
For every shot Rudder made, Gooding had an answer of his to keep Heights close to the Rangers.
At halftime Rudder led 29-24.
The second half started with Gooding driving down the right to tie the score once again. Fouls kept adding up for the Rangers as they kept trying to distance themselves, but Walker tied the score for a third time with 30 seconds left on the clock.
Gooding intercepted a Rudder pass and sprinted up the court to put the Knights up by two, 38-36, before the last eight minutes.
Workmon started the fourth by fouling out before the Knights’ fouls added up, allowing for Antoine Henderson’s fade away jump shot to tie the game once again.
Fouls added up once more for Rudder as Smith fouled out late in second half, but Gooding sank two free throws with 4.6 seconds left in play, securing the win for Heights.
But just to ensure Rudder wouldn’t spoil the win, senior guard Jayvon Young denied the Rangers last second shot attempt as the buzzer rang out.
Heights head coach Celneque Bobbitt attributes the team’s success to his players really buying into the idea of “team ball.”
“Team ball is the best ball,” he said, “and this is the spark we needed heading into district.”