At the beginning of the 2010 school year, Brian Long walked the green halls of Ellison.
But on Tuesday, all that mattered was that he was wearing maroon and the rival Eagles had just rallied from 13 points down in the second quarter to lead his Runnin' Roos 64-62 with just 1½ minutes left on the clock.
"I started getting nervous at first, but then something clicked in my mind, 'Don't let your team down, just keep playing hard,'" Long said. "That's when I figured I'd take over and just help my team out."
With composure and drive, the 6-foot-3 sophomore forward set his feet, dribbled once and pushed his way to back-to-back three-point plays to swing the score and the game back in Killeen's favor with 1:15 left.
On the other end, Ellison junior Ojai Black missed three scoring opportunities in the final 25 seconds and the Roos held on for a 69-68 victory Tuesday evening at home. "I missed two key ones, but I was just playing ball," Black said. "The travel that they called, I thought was a bad call, and then the last (miss), they kind of bumped me, but I tried to get it off the basket and it didn't go in."
It is Killeen's (1-3) sixth win in the last seven games over the crosstown Eagles (2-3) in a game that will likely matter even more in the future as the Roos are expected to join Ellison in the same Class 5A district next season. Usually an intense game every year, the two rivals combined for 60 fouls and 72 free throw attempts.
"I was proud we kept our composure, we didn't panic, and found a way to win it at the end," Killeen coach Jason Fossett said.
Battling through foul trouble the entire first half, the Eagles struggled early against the Roos' fast-paced attack and a relentless full-court press, shooting just 9-of-28 from the floor as Killeen led 42-34 at the break.
But Ellison junior wing Malik Hawkins hit a short-range jumper and then followed with one of his three 3-pointers in the game to make it a one-score game, 42-39, in the opening minute of the second half.
"We didn't do anything spectacular, we just started playing better," Ellison coach Alberto Jones said.
Killeen pulled ahead by double-digits again on a 7-0 run by Long, who finished with a team-high 16 points, before the Eagles took advantage of six turnovers in an eight-possession stretch by the Roos and closed out the third quarter on a 9-2 run to make it 53-50.
"Turnovers were something I expected a lot of, but I was proud of the effort," Fossett said. "I was really proud how the guys flew around and competed for the whole 32 minutes."
Killeen maintained a slight advantage much of the fourth before Ellison's Ty King hit a running layup with 3:12 left and Isiah Cowan stole the ensuing inbounds pass and converted a pair of free throws to pull within one, 59-58.
Following two free throws by Killeen forward Victor Glaze, Black who sat nearly the entire third quarter with four fouls put back his own miss and then tied the game at 61 with the and-one free throw. Black, who scored 10 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter, added a layup and then hit the first of two free throws to give Ellison a 64-62 lead with 1:39 left.
"I tried to come in a do what I could do, but it wasn't enough," Black said.
Beating his chest, Long converted two and-one opportunities to bookend a layup by Ellison guard Felix Marbury, who added 12 of the bench, and Roos teammate Tevin Bartney (11 points, nine rebound) forced a turnover and made good on the first of two free throws for a 69-66 lead with 55 seconds left.
Black followed with two free throws to pull it to within a single point, but didn't score again despite three chances around the Ellison basket in the final 30 seconds.
"I was pretty nervous, I thought he was going to hit both of them and it was going to go into overtime," Long said. "I'm just happy he missed it and we came out with a victory."