Though it is hard to call the fourth District 12-6A game on the schedule a must win, the Killeen Kangaroos were in a desperate position.
After opening the district schedule with a win over Belton, Killeen dropped three straight and was heading into the home gym of a talented Shoemaker team.
Dante Ellis-Thomas and DeMarius Cress scored 13 points apiece and Dadrien Moore scored five in the fourth quarter to help Killeen edge Shoemaker 50-49 on Friday at General Shoemaker Court.
“We needed this game badly,” Moore said. “We didn’t want to fall to last place so we needed to win some away games. That’s what we needed to play to put us back in fourth place.”
Shoemaker’s Torenzo Saunders led all scorers with 20 points while teammate Antoine James added eight.
The win improved Killeen’s record to 2-3 in district play while Shoemaker fell to 2-2 in league play.
“We needed it real bad, but Shoemaker needed it, too,” Killeen boys head coach Reggie Huggins said. “I think both teams wanted that win. They want to keep themselves at the top of the standings and we’re trying to get ourselves back in the mix of things.”
The Kangaroos and Grey Wolves went back and forth all night, trading the lead 10 times and tying twice before Cress drove to the bucket and put Killeen ahead 38-37 with 6:44 remaining to give the Kangaroos the lead for good.
“If you don’t show up to play in a district ball game, you’re going to get beat, especially in a cross-town ball game,” Shoemaker head coach Emund Prichett said.
Shoemaker’s Javon Levi hit a 3-pointer with eight seconds remaining. That shot from beyond the arc cut Killeen’s lead to 50-49 and Prichett immediately called a timeout.
After a quick foul, the Grey Wolves had one final opportunity when the Kangaroos missed both shots from the free throw line.
Saunders hauled in the rebound and threw it forward to Tyrone Williams, but his shot from just inside half court did not fall.
“We’ve got to come out to play no matter who our opponent is,” Levi said.
Levi was Shoemaker’s top scorer down the stretch with five points in the final quarter while James hit a 3-pointer with 2:23 remaining that cut Killeen’s lead to 45-44.
Cress and Moore were Killeen’s biggest players down the stretch, with five points apiece in the fourth quarter.
“We had to play with extreme effort and play with some heart because we didn’t want our season to go down,” Moore said.
Killeen looks to make it two in a row on Tuesday at Copperas Cove while Shoemaker hosts Belton.