ALLEN — Even in defeat, the Plano West boys basketball team has played the rest of District 9-6A close through the first half of the conference schedule.
Allen, fresh off one of the signature wins of its 2019-20 campaign Tuesday against Prosper, wasn’t interested in fueling any flair for the dramatic on Friday — holding the Wolves scoreless for a nine-minute stretch in the first half to seize control and maintain its perch atop 9-6A following a 58-43 victory.
“They got the game down to a really slow pace and you always worry how your team is going to handle that because it can expend a lot of energy,” said Joe McCullough, Allen head coach. “… I was proud of us for not letting them get too much momentum on us early.”
Between a grinding tempo and a zone defense that baited Allen into three turnovers within the game’s first two minutes, the Wolves authored the latest entry into the Eagles’ ongoing saga of up-and-down opening quarters.
A quick five points from West senior Grant Pressly marked the first blow and a a crafty finish inside by junior Chase Ross staked the Wolves to a 7-1 lead midway through the opening stanza.
The rest of the night belonged to the first-place Eagles.
Allen maneuvered its way around West’s 2-3 zone by cutting along the baseline once one of the Eagles’ guards drove to the basket, which opened up lobs from junior Manny Obaseki to both senior Thailand Elder and junior Blaine Green to trigger a 10-0 run to close out the opening stanza for an 11-7 lead.
“I thought we had a chance early. Our thing this year has been ball-handling and inexperience,” said Anthony Morgan, West head coach. “I think going forward we’ve got another half to go and we’ve been in every game prior to tonight. It was just a couple miscues and we’ve got to figure out how to not beat ourselves and we can be in the mix.”
Allen extended its run to 15-0 and clamped down on the defensive end to hold the Wolves without a make from the field for 9:15 — swelling its lead to 19-9 in the process. In total, the Eagles held West to single digits in each of the first three quarters, blowing the game open with a 19-9 third quarter for a 42-25 lead.
“We knew that they were going to extend and pull the ball out a bit to try and run the clock a bit, so we had to be good defensively,” McCullough said. “One thing we do is practicing guarding from the half-court line in on a regular basis. It just turned into a shell drill for us and the guys have a lot of pride, so they got after it and didn’t let the tempo affect them.”
The Eagles forced over 20 turnovers in the win, compounding issues for the Wolves’ half-court execution, which didn’t span far beyond Ross on Friday. Following Pressly’s hot start, Ross scored 13 of West’s next 14 points and accounted for 10 of the team’s 16 first-half points.
“Chase is coming into his own as a junior and that’s definitely something that we can build around,” Morgan said.
Ross led all scorers with 17 points on Friday, while Pressly chipped in 10. Those two scored every West basket until 3:37 remaining in the third quarter when junior Terrance Sanders finished an and-one.
Allen, meanwhile, was paced by 11 points Elder and nine from Obaseki, senior Adrian Jubran and junior Ian Motta. Junior Mason Gibson, despite being held scoreless, managed four steals as the forefront of the Eagles’ defensive effort on Friday.
“That’s what we practice. We reward defensive stops in practice and that’s just part of our culture. These guys learn it and it becomes what they’re used to,” McCullough said.
The win kept the Eagles perfect in district play at 5-0 while West continues to shift in the opposite direction at 0-5. The Wolves look to right the ship at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Jesuit while Allen visits Plano Senior at the same time.
“We’re not out of it yet. We’ve got this next week plus the second half, and if we can pull out a couple heading into the next round then we should be OK,” Morgan said. “It’s just tough losing four games by a total of 12 points. It rattles your confidence a little bit.”