By Tony Altobelli
Killeen Daily Herald
It was pretty easy to tell in the opening minutes of Saturday's matchup between Killeen and Leander Vista Ridge which team just came off a three-day, four game binge.
However, it was even easier to tell, after that, which team won all those games.
After opening the game trailing 8-3, the Kangaroos woke up, ripped off 22 of the next 24 points and cruised past the visiting Rangers 71-33.
"I told (assistant coach) Chuck Summers that we were going to come out as flat as a pancake and sure enough, we did," KHS coach Jason Fossett said. "But once we got things going and our defense picked up, we were all right."
Jordan Brown led the Roos (13-7), winners of six straight, with 22 points and 11 rebounds, while Tre Nichols added 16 points and five steals.
But the story on Saturday was, once again, the Roos' defense, which forced 22 Ranger turnovers and did not allow an easy basket all afternoon.
"If we can carry this defensive momentum into district play, I like our chances," Fossett said. "We've really been getting after it on the defensive end. For that to really work, it takes all five guys understanding what we're trying to accomplish out there. They're beginning to understand that our defense creates our offense."
After starting the game 0-for-7 from the field, Killeen found some easy opportunities off its defense and hit 7-of-10 the rest of the quarter as the Roos led 17-8 after the opening quarter.
Brown, who scored six in the first, picked up where he left off in the second, scoring nine in the frame as Killeen led 34-19 at the break following a Jerry Jennings steal and fall-away, high-arching 3-pointer from the corner at the buzzer.
"Jordan has really been strong down low for us the last few games and that's great to see as we get closer to district play," Fossett said.
The game was officially put away early in the third as the Roos continued to pile on the pressure, ripping off 11 straight points to lead 45-19.
Dylan Taylor, Nate Gillespie and Kyle Mahlen each had six points to lead Leander (10-9), but the Rangers were held to just 33 percent shooting in the first half (9-of-27) and did not attempt a free throw until late in the third quarter. In fact, the Roos were 17-of-29 from the charity stripe, while the Rangers hit just 2-of-6.
The fourth quarter has become "Miller Time" as of late for Rashon Miller. The senior reserve forward racked up nine of his 11 points in the final quarter. Despite coming off the bench, Miller has hit double figures in scoring on a few occasions, including a 12-point performance at the Gatesville Holiday Classic.
The Roos return to action on Tuesday night when they host Austin Lanier, beginning at 8.
Contact Tony Altobelli at firstname.lastname@example.org