WYLIE – For more than 30 minutes of game time on Tuesday, next to nothing went right on offense for the Allen boys basketball team against Wylie.
The Eagles may as well have been shooting into a Dixie cup with a ball covered in grease, given the team’s scoring droughts and turnover woes, which amounted to the team’s lowest scoring performance of the season.
And yet, Allen still exited with the inside track on second place in District 6-6A after a late rally past the Pirates for a 40-37 victory.
“It was some ugly basketball on our side for about 31-and-a-half minutes,” said Jeff McCullough, Allen head coach. “The offense never got going, but we did a solid job on the defensive end and got some points down the stretch when we really had to have them.
“We really shot the ball well from the free-throw line, but everything else was pretty ugly.”
So much so that the Eagles, who entered Tuesday’s contest averaging 67.6 points per game in district play, amassed only 30 through three quarters against Wylie – and didn’t convert a field goal in the fourth until 2:04 remained in the game.
Yet the Pirates couldn’t build anymore than a 35-31 lead and gave way to a 7-0 Allen run during crunch time. Senior Jaylen Walker broke the Eagles’ scoring slump with a hook shot that trimmed the gap to 35-33, and moments after seniors Jerritt Dixon and Jaylon Scott helped force a turnover, senior Isaiah Stevens buried a 3-pointer with 1:45 remaining for a 36-35 advantage.
The Eagles did the rest of their damage from the free-throw line, with senior Brenton Mills and Scott converting two apiece the rest of the way – the latter upping Allen’s lead to 40-37 with eight seconds left. Wylie’s last-ditch effort at forcing overtime resulted in an errant 3-pointer to secure the Eagles win.
It was just the second time all season Allen was held under 50 points scored, with the other being a 59-49 loss to McKinney last month.
“This is a tough place to play,” McCullough said. “I think they’ve lost only once here this season and it was to Guyer. I think this was a positive for us going into the playoffs because you’re going to have nights like this where you don’t play well offensively and you’ve got to be gritty on defense and not panic.
“Our kids had confidence that they could make some plays and they made them when they had to.”
The Eagles were uncharacteristically off all game long, despite generating plenty of makeable shot attempts. Allen only made four 3-pointers as a team, three coming from Stevens who scored 11 in the win.
Oddly enough, Mills scored the Eagles’ first points on a long-range make just 90 seconds into the game. Allen wouldn’t again convert from deep until Stevens did so midway through the third quarter.
“It was good to see one guy get going,” McCullough said. “It was a very ugly night from the arc, which is not our M.O. [Stevens] did a really good job of not pressing and staying patient, and knocked down some crucial ones for us.”
Walker matched Stevens with 11 points, as well as eight rebounds and three blocks, as one of the fulcrums of a strong defensive effort. The Eagles held the Pirates to single digits in three quarters on Tuesday, including just six in the fourth quarter.
“We really took away the majority of their sets and actions,” McCullough said. “I think there were two times when we had some busts, but outside of that we did a great job executing the scouting report. Sometimes when you’re not shooting well there’s a tendency to take plays off and get frustrated, but our kids stayed composed on defense and gave themselves a chance late.”
The Eagles, now holding a two-game lead on Wylie for second place, looks to stay rolling at 7:30 p.m. Friday at McKinney Boyd.