It didn’t take long for the Ellison Eagles to take control Friday evening. The No. 2-ranked team in Class 5A boys basketball scored early in the opening quarter and raced to a 75-42 win over the Lake Belton Broncos.
Star guard Jamyron Keller opened up the scoring in the game for the Eagles, a fitting overture to his end production.
The Oklahoma State signee led all scorers with 18 — 12 of which came in the first half. He also pulled in six rebounds, dished a couple of assists and grabbed three steals.
A scrappy and opportunistic defense forced a plethora of turnovers and missed shots that led to a handful of fast-break opportunities.
One of the senior leaders fueling the defensive output was Kesean Garland.
“He just plays hard all the time,” said head coach Alberto Jones Jr. “He’s not worried about scoring — just playing defense and rebounding. Everything he does, he’s doing it at 100%.”
Garland said after the game that he felt the team feeding off of his energy.
“When I’m playing hard, they play hard, for sure,” Garland said. “If I get down on myself, they will pick me up.”
Garland finished with eight points, seven rebounds, three steals and an assist.
Other Ellison scorers in Friday’s game were Deion Ware (16), Kris White (9), Ademola Oladipo (7), Khris Wilkerson (6), Rashad Jackson (4), JoJo McIver (2), Jeremiah Jones (1) and Deric Jones (1).
Of his scoring output, Garland scored six of his eight in a 27-point second quarter that saw the Eagles blow the game open.
The Eagles started the quarter on a 12-0 run, extending their lead to 26-5. After the Broncos scored the next five, the Eagles went on another 6-0 run before finishing the quarter going back and forth.
It was the second quarter when Jones saw flashes of what his team is capable of.
“In spurts, I thought we definitely showed some flashes,” he said. “If we can put those sparks into the whole game, I think we showed some flashes that we could be pretty good.”
Despite being overmatched, the Broncos played with a bit of moxie, forcing the Eagles to make numerous mistakes of their own that had Jones quietly frustrated at times.
“I probably look frustrated a lot and people probably say, ‘Man, these guys are No. 2 in the state and 7-0 in the district,’” Jones said. “But I just want us to be great.”
The ultimate goal for the Eagles is a state championship, something that narrowly eluded them in 2020 when they played in Class 6A. In 2020, the Eagles had a 24-game winning streak going into the regional finals when they lost 50-42 to Wylie.
“I think we’ve got a whole lot of room we could improve, and I just want us to keep getting better,” Jones said. “I don’t ever want to get comfortable and just get complacent.”
One of the challenges Jones said he has faced this season is making sure the team plays with focus for a full 32 minutes.
“There were a couple of spurts I thought we just kind of, ‘OK, we’re up 20, I’ll just let them score,’” Jones said. “Once we step on the court, we gotta do it the whole time.”
On Dec. 20, Jones benched four of his traditional starters for the opening of the game against Belton for what he felt was a lackadaisical effort on their part.
That night, the Eagles beat the Tigers, 66-54 in Killeen.
On Tuesday, the Eagles play the same Tiger team in Belton.
With seven games remaining in the season, the goal for Jones and company is simple: go into the playoffs playing the best basketball.
22-5A BOYS BASKETBALL
Waco University 5-2
Lake Belton 2-5
- Belton 43, Shoemaker 36
- Chaparral 64, Killeen 58
- No. 2 Ellison 75, Lake Belton 42
- Waco University 70, Waco 47