Ojai Black and Malik Hawkins consider themselves to be a dynamic combination.
"It's the dynamic duo I work off him, he works off me," Black said.
"A one-two punch," Hawkins added.
If only Ellison's "dynamic duo" could find some scoring synergy.
Making eight of his first nine shots including five 3-pointers a white-hot Hawkins scored 22 of his game-high 23 points in the first half, equaling Austin Hyde Park's total output as the Eagles led 35-22 at halftime. But with Hawkins saddled in foul trouble, Black sealed the game from the charity stripe, knocking down six straight free throws in the fourth quarter to stomp out the Panthers' third-quarter rally in Tuesday's 57-49 win at Ellison.
"We let them back into the game, it was a lack of intensity on defense," said Black, who scored 11 of his 17 points in the second half. "We thought we had the lead, and we sat back in the driver's seat. When we get a lead like that, we've got to keep our foot on the pedal, keep the gas going."
Inconsistent play has been a cause for concern for the Eagles (6-4) for much of the first three weeks of the season, and with District 12-5A play starting in two weeks, fourth-year coach Alberto Jones says it starts with defense.
"We've got to do it on the defensive end. The shots aren't always going to fall, but we should always be consistent on defense," Jones said. "It's a learning process, and ... We've just got to work on getting better the whole game."
Thanks to Hawkins' hot hand, scoring Ellison's first seven points, the Eagles opened the contest with a 5-0 advantage before closing out the first quarter on a 9-1 tilt for a 18-12 lead.
That's when Hawkins really got going, connecting on a three-point play on a pull-up jumper 42 seconds into the second quarter before going off for four straight 3-pointers over the final five minutes of the first half as Ellison stretched a 23-18 lead to 35-22 at the break.
"When I'm feeling it, I'm feeling it," Hawkins said with a smile. "It's been consistent for the last couple of weeks. It's just all the work getting my shots up in the morning."
Black opened the second half with a fancy spin move to the basket, getting the bucket and the foul. But, as a sign of what was to come, Black missed the and-one free throw and managed just 1-of-6 from the charity stripe and missed his last four field goals of the third quarter. In the meantime, Austin Hyde Park rallied from 15 down to pull within 42-38 entering the fourth, scoring the last nine points of the quarter.
"We get ahead of teams a lot and in the forth quarter I think we start relaxing," Black added. "We need that killer's mentality. We can't relax, we can't let up. We've just got to go out and finish a game."
That killer mentality finally came out Tuesday as both teams reached the double-bonus early in the fourth.
Working into the lane, Black managed to draw foul after foul, getting to the line four times over a three minute span as Ellison stretched a slight 46-43 advantage to 54-47 as Black hit six straight free throws.
"I was just trying to be aggressive, that's my game, get to the lane and knock down shots, knock down free throws, get the rest of my game going," Black said.