Red Bank senior LeKerrick Ellison knows the time is now to give everything he has with his teammates on the basketball court.
Ellison's preparation for this week started well before he posted 14 points, 10 rebounds and four steals in Thursday's 79-52 thrashing of Brainerd on senior night in the Lion Den. The impressive outing came soon after Bailey Lee scored a career-high 37 points in the Lady Lions' 92-34 win.
"LeKerrick and Brandon (Jones) got my (gym) keys Sunday and came here just to work on their game and get shots up," Red Bank coach Nick Fike said. "These guys know the end is in sight, and they are not ready yet.
"Early this season the confidence wasn't there for LeKerrick, but he's in here every day after practice, and he's gotten better and better. His confidence has come from preparation."
The lanky Ellison, who is 6-foot-3, ran the floor well with what might be the most athletic group in a very talented District 6-AA.
Red Bank's team is loaded with dunkers, speed and players with tremendous length — including Ellison, whose elevation over defenders was highlighted Thursday on a pull-up jumper from the left baseline, as well as his putback basket when the Lions missed a 3-point attempt.
Ellison established authority in the third quarter, when he took the ball up the court and had three steals to key a 23-8 advantage against Brainerd, which was hit with two technical fouls in the period.
"I think we can really be an unstoppable team," said Ellison, who scored all his points in the first three quarters, helping his team build a 60-35 lead. "When we were in middle school, one of our coaches told us we could put banners up on the wall here one day. We are super happy to have Lucas (Brown) back now. Coach Fike keeps preaching: No one can stop us when we play to our potential."
The Lions (18-9, 9-5), who will be seeded third in the upcoming district tournament, have proven themselves this season by winning at Division II-AA Baylor and competing wire to wire with Tyner and Howard, the district's top two seeds.
Staying aggressive is important for Ellison and Jones, and Brown showed he can take the same approach. After missing the past six games due to an ankle injury, Brown scored 18 points, hitting step-back 3-pointers and throwing down a filthy one-handed slam after which he let his emotions out.
"This is a great group, and I believe in them," Fike said. "We are focused on the journey and not the destination. Our journey has been up and down and had some injury bugs, but we figured when we got everyone back and we get clicking then we can be dangerous in the most important time of the year. You got a glimpse of that tonight."
The left-handed shooting Jones finished with 17 points and was tough to guard, and junior Kel Eddins added 12.
Brainerd (13-8, 8-4), which gave Tyner its lone district loss last Friday, could not keep up despite another strong night from Kevin Halfacre Jr., who scored 17 points.