An elbow to the face. A bloodied jersey. Eisenhower’s Cameron Ellis battles back. ‘It’s just his dog mentality.’

Steve Millar/Chicago Tribune/TNS

Eisenhower’s Cameron Ellis spent the final minute against Sandburg in the trainer’s room just behind the court, getting his left eye patched up after taking an elbow to the face late in the game.

The senior guard/forward emerged postgame with blood all over his jersey.

His coaches and teammates, including senior guard Ayipey Salinas, said it was a scene symbolic of who Ellis is as a player — a scrappy fighter who has helped the Cardinals find success.

“Cam is incredible,” Salinas said. “It’s just his dog mentality. He has a nonstop motor.”

Ellis continued a personal hot streak Wednesday night while helping the host Cardinals keep theirs going. He scored 20 points and pulled down 10 rebounds as Eisenhower earned its seventh straight win with a 79-64 victory over the Eagles.

AJ Abrams also scored 20 points for the Cardinals (19-6). Salinas finished with 18 points and seven rebounds and Micah Calvin contributed 10 points.

Yanal Swaiss poured in 27 points for Sandburg (12-13). Paulius Mizeras had 16 points and six rebounds, while David Vargas added 11 points and Ryan Tomczak chipped in with eight rebounds.

Big games have been routine lately for Ellis. He scored 28 and 24 points, respectively, in wins over Argo and Evergreen Park.

“The second half of the season, I felt like I had to play a bigger role on the team,” Ellis said. “I’m just playing hard. It starts with defense, first of all.”

Eisenhower coach Neil Miguez agreed that much of Ellis’ best work comes on the defensive end. Ellis frustrated Sandburg sharpshooters Tomczak, who was held scoreless, and Vargas.

“Cam’s a dog,” Miguez said. “He’s only 6-foot, and he plays like he’s 6-foot-4. He’ll guard a point guard, he’ll guard a center, he rebounds. He’s our best defender, and then he’s also one of our top two offensive guys.

“He’s just got a motor on him. He’s special.”

Ellis is in his first season with Eisenhower after transferring from Tinley Park. He’s already quite comfortable with his new teammates.

“It felt like home when I first got here,” Ellis said. “I played basketball with ‘Pey’ (Salinas) and AJ in AAU, so I knew what they could do.”

Abrams, the reigning South Suburban Red Player of the Year, was injured in the season opener. That put Ellis in the uncomfortable position of trying to lead his new team.

“This summer, Cam was awesome,” Miguez said. “I thought he was our best player. Then to start the season, it wasn’t like that. AJ got hurt and then there’s a lot of putting all this pressure on Cam, and I don’t think he was ready yet.

“AJ came back for that Hillcrest game (on Dec. 5), Cam went off, and since then, I don’t remember a bad night he’s had.”

Ellis certainly prefers having Abrams on the court with him.

“Playing with AJ, that’s fun,” Ellis said. “It’s nice to see him play. He can do a lot and he passes the ball.”

Eisenhower led 37-33 at halftime before taking command with a 24-14 edge in the third quarter. Ellis scored five points in that stretch, while Salinas heated up for nine.

After the Cardinals finished under .500 each of the last three seasons, this winter is starting to feel special for a team with 11 seniors on the roster.

“It’s very exciting,” Salinas said. “Especially knowing that me and the people I grew up with are all here and doing this.”

Ellis’ belief in himself and his team has skyrocketed.

“It started from the people who were here before this year,” Ellis said. “They gave me the confidence to go do what I can on the court. Everybody’s happy as long as we win.”