By Alex Byington

Killeen Daily Herald

It wasn't an auspicious start for Ellison by any means.

Struggling to find their shot much of the first half, the Eagles' dynamic senior duo of Devonte Brown and Jaleel Williams went to the air to shake off any first-game rust against Pflugerville Connally.

Nursing a slight lead with under two minutes to play before halftime, Brown stole the ball from his Connally counterpart and lofted it nearly 20 feet into Williams' waiting hands for the gym-rocking dunk and a 30-23 advantage with 1:21 remaining.

"He's like the biggest guy on our team, so I feel like when Jaleel gets going, the team gets going," said 5-foot-4 guard Anthony "Ant" Forbes of the 6-7 Williams.

Coming out of the break with a slight lead, Ellison parlayed a 10-1 second half-opening run into a commanding 59-46 victory over the visiting Cougars on Tuesday.

"We started off kind of slow, but we realized it was our first game and we were getting our

jitters out," Forbes said. "So I feel like the run showed we were ready to play ball."

Shooting 11-of-14 from inside the paint, including three dunks, the high-flying Williams led all scorers with 24 points and 10 rebounds, to go along with 15 hard-earned points from Brown.

"I just tried to take advantage of every opportunity, I had some good looks and I just put them up there and they were falling - I just want to continue that streak," Williams said.

It was the Eagles' ability to score in the lane that helped them when the 3s weren't falling for either team, as Ellison only made 3-of-13 from behind the arc, while Connally finished a meager 4-of-16.

"I thought we did pretty good when we took the ball to the rim, but I thought a lot of times we settled for 3s that we really shouldn't have taken," Ellison coach Alberto Jones said. "The first couple of games, you're shot's not going to be on, so I thought we should have taken the ball to the hole a little bit more."

Ellison did just that in a power surge in which it outscored Connally 32-7 during a seven-minute stretch between the second and third quarters.

Trailing 21-20 with under four minutes remaining in the second quarter, after consecutive missed 3s by Brown and Williams, the Eagles took its final lead with a lay up by reserve Malcolm Barnes with 3:13 left. Tracey Wood followed that with a tip-in of another miss from Brown before Williams closed out the first half scoring six of the next eight points with a pair of dunks and a put-back as time expired.

The run continued in the second half as Brown hit an easy lay up followed by a pair of Forbes 3s bookending a fade-away jumper from Williams for a 42-28 lead.

"At halftime, we told the guys we need to go on a run the first two minutes," Jones said, "because (Connally is) one of those teams that if you keep around, they'll hit a couple of shots and next thing you know, they're up one."

From there, the Eagles never relented, using an up-tempo pace that kept the pressure on the Cougars and gave Ellison fans plenty to look forward to this season.

"We need work, but it's early and everybody needs work early," Jones said. "... But I think we have the pieces that if we put everything together, we can be pretty good."

Contact Alex Byington at or (254) 501-7566.

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