The atmosphere in the Ellison High School gym felt like a party Wednesday afternoon. Hundreds of students, faculty, parents and other supporters packed the gym to near capacity at a pep rally to see the Eagles boys basketball team off to San Antonio for the state semifinal game against Mansfield Summit.
After a faculty member introduced the team, the lights went out, allowing the supporters to show off their glow-in-the-dark accessories while music blared through the many speakers. Spirit squads danced in the dark, sending the fans into a frenzy.
Finally, once on the bus, the team received a grand send-off, complete with a police escort down Elms Road.
This is the first time since 1993 that Ellison reached this level of the state playoffs. The 1993 Eagles team lost the semifinal game that year to Converse Judson, 66-57.
The team also made a deep playoff run in the 2019-2020 season, when it lost in the Class 6A regional finals, 50-42, against Wylie.
Stacy Keller, the uncle of star senior guard Jamyron Keller, said he sees a difference in this year’s team from that one when his nephew was a freshman.
“I see a little bit more focus,” he said. “It’s a team goal now. It’s like everybody wants it from the top to the bottom.
“And I actually see the work that they put in, and it’s paying off.
“My nephew, he’s been wanting this since his freshman year. He told me and his mom before this season that he’s going to get (a championship).”
Keller’s mother, Kayla, said the pep rally and send-off was a “very emotional moment.”
“I’ve seen the hard work that — not only my son, Jamyron — has put in; I’ve seen all of the hard work all of these boys have put in. Coach (Alberto) Jones, I’ve seen the dedication that he has for his team,” she said. “So it was definitely a very emotional moment; it brought tears to my eyes just seeing them, seeing the police escorts, seeing them get on the bus. It’s joy. I’m happy, but it’s a little bit overwhelming as well.”
Kayla Keller said she has been on an emotional roller coaster since the beginning of the playoffs, which the Eagles have soared through, winning all games by double digits.
Ellison, the second-ranked team in all of 5A basketball in the state, sports a 37-3 record, which is countered by Mansfield Summit’s 34-4 record. Ellison’s three losses this year have come by a total of just seven points.
Tipoff for Thursday’s game at the Alamodome is 8:30 p.m. Tickets are available online only at Ticketmaster.com. Those unable to attend can watch it on the NFHS Network online, though the service requires a paid subscription.
The game will also be broadcast on Killeen ISD Radio on FM 95.1 or at https://www.killeenisd.org/radio.
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