Dock senior Darius Ellis (center) and sophomore Tomir Johnson (right) hold the District 1 Class 2A trophy after the Pioneers' win Saturday afternoon. (Photo: Chris Wasson/CoBL)
Chris Wasson (@CWWasson)
ARDMORE --- Looking at Darius Ellis, you would expect him to dominate the post and control the backboards for the Dock Mennonite Pioneers. At 6-foot-6 and well over 200 pounds, with size 17 shoes, the Pioneer senior is built for battles in the paint, but he is anything but a stationary object, showing great lateral movement on offense and defense.
In Dock’s 69-49 win over Church Farm on Saturday, capturing the District 1 Class 2A championship, Ellis was everywhere for the Pioneers –– diving for loose balls, cutting off penetration to the basket and showing off his athleticism on drives to the hoop.
The effort took a lot out of the big man, but the result was well worth it.
“It was hard, man, I thought I was not going to have any body left, I was hobbling,” Ellis said after the game. “All the running, all the practices, all the hard work we put into this team, we got the championship, that’s all that matters.”
His coach was impressed by the performance.
“Darius played a great game,” Mike Fergus said. “He did it on both ends, blocking shots, saving balls going out of bounds, scoring the basketball, passing. He’s been great all year.”
The Griffins had no answer for Ellis as he either converted in the lane –– making 9-of-12 short-range field goals –– or went to the foul line, where he sank 6-of-10 on the day with a smooth touch, finishing with a game-high 24 points.
Ellis had plenty of support from his teammates with balanced scoring from junior Steve Martin (13 points), senior Ralph St. Fleur (12), junior Devon Jainlett (7), senior Jake Derstine (6) and junior Dallas Wilder (5).
The team effort produced the first District Championship for Dock since 1992, a fact not lost to Fergus.
“I’ve been at Dock six years, and I was stunned when I looked up at the banners a couple of years ago and noticed we hadn’t won a title since 1992,” he said. “So this was special for our seniors Darius Ellis, Jake Derstine, Cecil Barnes and Ralph St. Fleur, those are all seniors and they really wanted to win a district championship, leave a legacy. I’m just happy for them.”
The turning point in the game came late in the first quarter, after Church Farm decided to hold the ball near half court and make the Pioneers come out of their 2-3 zone. After about 45 seconds, the Pioneers’ coach had seen enough and pushed his defense out to pressure Church Farm, resulting in an immediate turnover and a transition basket for the Pioneers.
Fergus believes that sequence sparked his team and set the tone for the rest of the afternoon.
“Funny game,” he said. “We started a little slow, they were kind of trying to slow the game down a little bit and actually held the ball there in the first quarter. It was almost like it fired us up, and we began to attack.”
Attack they did, as Dock Mennonite harassed Church Farm into multiple turnovers in the second quarter, allowing the Pioneers to convert in transition. The Pioneers outscored the Griffins 16-7 in the second quarter to take a 28-17 lead at the half.
Dock Mennonite carried the momentum into the second half as they started the third quarter with a 10-0 run over the first three minutes that put the game away. Ellis led the way with nine points in the paint in the quarter, and Wilder chipped in with five points. At the end of the third quarter, the Pioneers were up 17 and looking towards their first district championship in nearly three decades.
Now the focus for the Pioneers turns to the state playoffs, which will begin in two weeks. Fergus is not worried about any loss of momentum due to the layoff.
“That is a concern, but here’s the thing -- there’s only 32 teams in the state tournament, we’re District champs,” he said. “I don’t care if we play this a month from now, if you don’t have momentum, then there’s something wrong with you.
“it’s the state tournament, it’s an honor to be in it, so we’ll be ready. I think this team can even get better, they haven’t reached their peak as a team. We’ll be working on that over the next two weeks.”
Ellis agreed: “We don’t play for two weeks, but we’re just going to practice and work hard until then.”
Church Farm: 10 | 7 | 13 | 19 | 49
Dock Mennonite: 12 | 16 | 19 | 22 | 69
Church Farm: Sissoko 14, Phifer 11, Jimenez 9, Young 5, Toledo 5, Sharkey 3, Sow 2
Dock Mennonite: Ellis 24, Martin 13, St. Fleur 12, Jainlett 7, Derstine 6, Wilder 5, Kuhn 2