For first time in a while, Ellicott is relevant in boys' basketball

January 15, 2014 Updated: January 15, 2014 at 9:10 pm

Sure, it's through only four games, but a quick look at the 3A Tri-Peaks East standings reveals a detail that might require a second look.

Ellicott is in first place with an undefeated 4-0 mark.

That is not a misprint.

Sporting a 7-2 overall record, the Thunderhawks, under first-year coach Brian Murray, are rewriting the school's record books through not quite half a season. This is the same program that produced a 4-16 mark last season, went 2-17 the season before and hadn't had as much as a six-win season since 2005-06.

"This is more than just a coaching change," Murray said. "This is about the school board, staff and other coaches all working together. We didn't know how this was going to turn out. To be honest, I was hoping for a 50 percent winning percentage. I know it's clich? but we have to take things one game at a time and not get too far ahead of ourselves."

Ellicott has scored recent single-digit victories over Pueblo Centennial (70-68), St. Mary's (69-64) and Trinidad (59-53), displaying a knack for clutch play and closing out the opposition, two traits sorely missing over the past decade.

Ellicott's victory over St. Mary's on Friday broke a 16-game losing streak to the Pirates.

So on Saturday, when the Thunderhawks travel to La Junta, which claimed a share of the regular-season title last season, the home team probably won't see the same Ellicott team from a year ago.

"Personally, I was glad to see the faces on the other teams when we win," Ellicott junior Garrett Harper said. "Especially at St. Mary's. We couldn't believe we won that game since we hadn't beaten them in so long. Now, we don't stop fighting. That's what we do."

Two weeks before the start of the season, Murray settled into his role as first-year assistant coach, a few months removed from coaching the team at several summer-league tournaments.

But when Stuart Paddock suddenly resigned after two seasons, Murray was the natural fit to take over the team, with precious little time to spare.

"It was a tough transition losing our coach so close to the start of the season," junior guard Javonte' Stewart said. "Since we played for Coach Murray in the summer, we already knew him and his style. I think all of us did well and went with the flow. We just have to keep practicing and working. We haven't accomplished anything, yet."

With that in mind, Murray cautions his players from getting caught up in the excitement of the successful start.

"I'm trying to keep the boys from looking at the stats," said Murray, whose son, Morgan, a sophomore, leads three scorers averaging double figures at 14.3 points. "Through all of this, it has brought the community back together, and that's what's really important. You walk into the games, and the bleachers are just about full. It hasn't always been that way."

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