The No. 4 Ellison Eagles were on upset alert in the first half of their game with the Harker Heights Knights on Friday at the Ellison gym.
Clinging to a three-point lead coming out of the break, Ellison made a few quick passes and scored in just nine seconds.
The easy layup by Nehemiah Nuckolls set the tone for the second half as the Eagles scored 44 of their 72 points in the second half of a 72-47 victory.
Riding two long runs in the third quarter and one long run in the fourth, Ellison led by as many as 30 points in the second half.
Ellison started the third quarter on an 8-0 run. After a Knight basket, the Eagles went on an 11-0 run.
Harker Heights coach Celneque Bobbitt said it was a tough battle in the first half, but it was too much Ellison in the second.
“Like you tell the kids, the first three minutes of every half is the biggest three minutes,” he said.
The Knights came out flat and the Eagles came out strong, he said.
Both runs were the result of a suffocating defense that forced several Heights turnovers, many on consecutive possessions.
Eagle fans were treated to three rim-rattling dunks in the midst of the second run. On a fast break off of a turnover, Shamir Bogues rose up and dunked it ferociously.
Seconds later, off of another turnover, the crowd held its collective breath as it saw an alley-oop develop.
Nuckolls lobbed the ball perfectly to Bogues who slammed it in, sending the Eagle faithful into a frenzy.
Later in the run, Matthias Nero stole the ball and added a dunk of his own.
Ellison coach Alberto Jones Jr. said the second half effort is what he expects to see on a nightly basis.
“I expect that kind of energy and effort for 32 minutes,” he said. “We didn’t have that the first 16 minutes.”
Jones emptied his bench with 3:49 left in the game, sending in a fresh five to finish the game.
The scoring outbursts for Ellison were not as common in the first half. The biggest lead the Eagles held in the first half was six.
The Knights played a very tough first half, even grabbing a brief 22-21 lead in the second quarter and holding Ellison to just four points through the first six minutes of the second quarter.
Four Eagles finished with double figures. Bogues led all scorers with 22 points, followed by Nero’s 11 and 10 each by Jamyron Keller and Trendon Stewart. Nuckolls finished with nine points.
Not much of a factor in the points category, Jayce Wright led the way with six rebounds for Ellison. Nuckolls added five boards.
For the Knights, Antawn Taylor led the way with 13 points, the only Knight with double digits. Following Taylor in the points category were Jalen Kaderra with seven points, Rakim Warren with six points and Jason Brooks with five.
Taylor also led the rebounding category for Harker Heights with five. Camrin Forde, who did not score, had three rebounds.
”In the first half, we just stayed focused,” Bobbitt said. “We came out, and we did the things we wanted to do.”
For much of the half, the two teams traded baskets, not letting the other seize a notable advantage.
Neither the Knights nor Eagles went on a long run in the first half.
Fans saw a mix of everything, from stingy defense by both teams to unforced turnovers. Both Bobbitt and Jones paced the sidelines, visibly frustrated.
“I told (my team) people are coming,” Jones said. “Ellison’s No. 4, so people want to come see what the hype’s about, and in the first half, they didn’t give them anything to ... show why they’re No. 4.”
The 25-point win by the Eagles pushes their district record to a spotless 10-0. With the playoffs looming, Jones said his message to the team is to step up the intensity.
“We told them ... these teams got pride,” Jones said. “These teams aren’t going to just let Ellison come in here and just walk all over them, so we’ve got to bring our effort level up.”
Bobbitt knew the game would be tough.
“We knew this was going to be a hard battle,” he said.
Bobbitt said it is a tall order to beat a team of Ellison’s caliber, even if the team had played as well as it could.
“My hats go off to Ellison and these young kids,” he said.
Both teams are back in action Tuesday night. Harker Heights hosts Copperas Cove at 7 p.m. Ellison travels to play cross-town rival Shoemaker, also at 7 p.m.
ELLISON 72, HARKER HEIGHTS 47
Harker Heights (47)
Forde 0, Labeach 2, Kaderra 7, Taylor 13, Chamberlain 2, Brooks 5, Bright 2, Goodrich 3, Warren 6, Carter 4, Dixon 3.
No. 4 Ellison (72)
Harper 1, Keller 10, Nero 11, Bogues 22, Wright 4, Nuckolls 9, Thomas 0, Stewart 10, Dillard 2, Parks 3, Cromity 0.
Harker Heights 13 12 6 16—47
Ellison 17 11 21 23—72
3-Point Goals—Harker Heights 3 (Taylor 2, Goodrich), Ellison 4 (Bogues 3, Nero). Free Throws—Harker Heights 14-18, Ellison 15-25. Fouled Out—None. Total Fouls—Harker Heights 20, Ellison 17. Technicals—None.
Records—Harker Heights 4-6 12-6A, Ellison 10-0 12-6A.
FRIDAY'S 12-6A BOYS BASKETBALL
- Copperas Cove 61, Waco 55
- No. 4 Ellison 72, Harker Heights 47
- Killeen 64, Shoemaker 48
- Temple 66, Belton 57
- BYE: Waco Midway
12-6A BOYS STANDINGS
Waco Midway (7-2)
Copperas Cove (4-6)
Harker Heights (4-6)