Eagles, Knights Serve Up Basketball Feast

Ellison defeats Harker Heights in nail biterHHHS David Punch
























Those gathered inside the Harker Heights Gym not only avoided the chilly, blustery conditions outside Tuesday afternoon, they also enjoyed a sizeable helping of hard-fought, back-and-forth basketball between two Killeen ISD state-ranked teams.


With the stage set, the visiting Ellison Eagles and Knights put on a show that had all the action and drama expected when the two rivals collide. Plus, the contest went down to the wire.


The Eagles built a 14-point halftime advantage that the Knights whittled down to just one with 14 seconds remaining in a thrilling fourth quarter. Then, Ahziel McIver and Nasaun Parker combined to make three free throws down the stretch that ultimately sealed a 64-63 non-district victory for Ellison.


“Big-time game, big environment, crowded gym, I thought our guys competed,” said Eagles coach Alberto Jones Jr., whose team –– ranked No. 6 in the Texas Association of Basketball Class 5A rankings –– moved to 6-0 to start the season.

Eagles, Knights collide in pre-district matchup


“A win is a win. I’ll take it,” he said. “Got to clean up a lot of stuff in the second half but that’s a good team, so to get a win before Thanksgiving is always good.”


The Eagles’ plates certainly were full two days before the holiday in dealing with the Knights (6-2), who entered with a six-game winning streak in tow and had just captured the title over the weekend at the Arlington Classic.

Ellison's McIver drives inside


“It was a great atmosphere. The kids know those kids. They knew them growing up. They know everything about them. Before the game, they were telling me what this kid can do, what this kid can do. So, it was exciting to know that our kids were locked in and focused on the task at hand,” Harker Heights head coach Jerrel Chumley said.


“We didn’t come out on top but the thing that I love is the fight and competitiveness that our kids showed.”


Harker Heights’ comeback charge started in the third quarter when the Class 6A 20th-ranked Knights outscored the Eagles 18-7 to get within 47-44 heading to the fourth.


The Knights were within two points three times over the course of the final period and a pair of David Punch free throws left Harker Heights down just 61-60.


The free throws from McIver and Parker were enough to survive Jamari Alexander’s banked-in 3-pointer at the buzzer.


“We’ve got to do a better job so they don’t make those big runs. But, when they did make it, I thought (McIver) and (Sean Parks) did a good job. But, really, it was all the guys,” Jones said. “We have to rebound better. We’re doing a decent job of blocking out, but now we have to get the ball.”


McIver posted a game-high 24 points for the Eagles, who also got 15 from Parks and 11 from Parker. Kris White and Marneko Thomas chipped in five points apiece.

Ellison defeats Harker HeightsEllison-Heights battle for rebound


Alexander and Punch posted 19 points each for the Knights. Lawrence Taylor added 10 points and Donnie Dukes had seven.


“I saw a lot of fight out of our kids in the second half. They locked in and bought into us coaches,” Chumley said. “We made some adjustments and came back out with a better second half that kept us in the game.”


Ellison took its first lead, 18-17, with Parks’ 3-pointer that opened the second-quarter scoring. The Knights recaptured the advantage when Dukes converted a three-point play, but the 20-18 lead was short-lived.


McIver tied it with a layup and Parker’s two free throws lifted the Eagles ahead 22-20. From there, Ellison outscored Heights 18-6 to the halftime break –– including a 10-0 run that spanned the last 3 minutes of the second quarter –– for a 40-26 cushion.


McIver finished the first half with 18 points, including 10 in the second quarter –– a stretch that Jones said reminded him of Jamyron Keller, the Eagles’ Class of 2023 guard now at Oklahoma State.

Eagles get big win at Harker Heights


“He took over, from getting to the rim, knocking down shots, leading,” Jones said of McIver. “He doesn’t play with a lot of emotion, so when he starts showing some emotion that means he’s feeling really, really good. And we needed that cushion.”


The Knights shot 8-of-22 from the field in the first half and finished 20-of-47. The Eagles were 14-of-28 through 16 minutes and were 22-of-53 overall. The teams combined to make 33 of 45 free throws.


Harker Heights led by as much as six on two occasions early in the first quarter, but the Eagles closed within 17-15 by the end of the opening 8 minutes when McIver hit a corner 3 as time expired.


“It definitely helps us,” Jones said of playing a strong Harker Heights team. “We’ve got some more coming, though. We’ve got that Mansfield tournament next weekend where there will be a whole lot of (good teams). So, it’s a good indicator of where we are at right now to get ready for that big-time tournament.”


Shoemaker 59, Pflugerville Hendrickson 42


Beres Henry and DJ Moore each tallied 14 points, and the Grey Wolves pocketed a triumph Tuesday in their home opener.


Gregory Dumas chipped in 10 points for Shoemaker, which improved to 2-2.


Chaparral Lady Bobcats 73, Austin St. Michael’s 54


Jerriyah Baines delivered 22 points, Ivy Powell posted 19, and seventh-ranked Chaparral pulled away for a road victory Tuesday to improve to 7-0.


Round Rock 51, Ellison Lady Eagles 43


Faith Etienne netted 18 points and Zoe Parker scored 11 but Round Rock came away with the win.


Stephenville 43, Harker Heights Lady Knights 42


Harker Heights endured a narrow defeat on the road against the Yellow Jackets.


Cedar Park 57, Killeen Lady Roos 17


The Lady Kangaroos challenged the Lady Timberwolves in a non-district outing on the road.


Photos by Todd Martin