SAN ANTONIO – The Ellison Eagles punched their ticket Thursday evening.
The destination: The state championship game Saturday afternoon.
Battling through adversity in the first 12 or so minutes of the game, Deion Ware and Ellison began to cook, ultimately beating the Mansfield Summit Jaguars, 52-50.
The win earns Ellison a berth in the championship to play the Dallas Kimball Knights.
The outcome could’ve been different were it not for a key block by Jamyron Keller on a layup attempt by Jesse Warner with 2:21 remaining in the game. About 10 seconds later, Keller got the ball and put it in to give Ellison a 47-40 lead.
“I told him (Keller) late with about three minutes left in the game, I told him it was winning time,” said head coach Alberto Jones Jr. in a post-game press conference. “I told him winners make winning plays during winning time.
“We always talk about winning plays, and we always say it doesn’t have to be baskets – just winning plays; whatever your team needs.”
Keller made a free throw with two seconds left in the game, and though Summit had a chance off his missed second free throw, the desperation last-second, nearly full-court heave by Franck Emmou fell well short.
Keller finished the game with 15 points, three assists, two blocks and a steal.
The two-point difference was no shock for Jones, given the level of talent his team faced.
“Getting to the final four, everybody can play,” Jones said during a press conference after the game. “I know (Mansfield Summit coach) Emund (Prichett) personally; I know how hard he works. I know how hard his teams play and how disciplined and sound they are, so we knew it was going to be a dogfight.”
Playing sluggishly through the first 12 minutes of the game, the Eagles began to heat up in the second quarter, ending the first half on an 8-0 run, turning a 19-14 deficit into a 22-19 lead.
In the third quarter, Ware caught fire. The pivotal quarter saw the senior score 13 of his team-high 16 points in that eight-minute stretch.
His buzzer-beating 3 pointer at the end of the quarter also gave the Eagles a six-point cushion going into the final frame.
“It kind of opened it up for us, and we were able to maintain,” Jones said of Ware’s third-quarter scoring outburst. “I’m proud of the guys, but we got one more game yet.”
Ellison overcame a slow start that saw the Eagles shoot well off the mark and toss several wayward passes.
“We missed free throws and kind of turned the ball over a little bit, so that kind of made it a lot more interesting that we would like for it to be,” Jones said.
Ellison started the game shooting just 33.3% on 4 of 12 from the field in the first quarter, combined with 1 of 5 from beyond the 3-point line and 2 of 5 from the free-throw line.
With Thursday’s game in the books, the attention shifts to Saturday.
“They’re really, really good,” Jones said of Dallas Kimball.
The Knights beat the San Antonio Veterans Memorial Patriots, 50-47, in the preceding semifinal game.
“We’ve watched a little film on them, but we didn’t want to get ahead of ourselves because Summit was such a tough battle,” Jones said. “We’ll enjoy this win tonight, have the kids get some rest, and my coaches and I will start breaking down some film and seeing what we see about them.”
Saturday’s championship game is set for a 3 p.m. tip-off. The game will be broadcast on the NFHS Network online and on Killeen ISD Radio.
Summit 12 7 14 17 50
Ellison 11 11 17 13 52
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