After a challenging non-district schedule, which led to some up-and-down results on the court, the Allen girls basketball team turned in its best week of the 2019-20 season at just the right time.
On Tuesday, the Lady Eagles picked up arguably their signature win of the preseason in a 16-point rout of The Colony, ranked No. 7 in the state in Class 5A by the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches. Three days later, Allen carried that momentum into the start of District 9-6A play and slayed another state-ranked foe in a 46-38 road victory over Plano Senior (No. 7 in 6A).
“We’re still a little young and still finding our way,” said Teresa Durham, Allen head coach. “We played an incredibly tough schedule and we had to keep preaching to our girls that even though we lost the first three games, none of those were to shabby teams. It’s about having the confidence and being able to step up and go do it. Tonight, we saw that.”
That much was evident from the onset, as Allen pounced on Plano for an 8-0 lead over the first four minutes of the ballgame. Junior Zoe Jackson keyed the early surge with seven of the team’s 13 first-quarter points, adding a couple assists alongside senior Tyler Jackson as part of arguably the top backcourt in 9-6A.
“Zoe and Ty are so solid and they’ve really started to feed off each other,” Durham said. “When those two are clicking, it makes us hard to guard because we have a lot of role players who are capable of stepping up as well.”
Zoe Jackson led all scorers with 15 points, complemented by eight from Tyler Jackson — a welcome one-two punch on a night when Allen’s defense gave Plano all it could handle. A layup and free throw from junior Mikayla Eddins were the only points mustered by the Lady Wildcats in the first quarter, who trailed 13-3 after one frame and were down by as many as 18 points on Friday.
“We had opportunities. We just have to be mentally tough and make our open layups,” said Rodney Belcher, Plano head coach. “We’ve got to kick it to the open shooter when we draw double teams instead of forcing some passes in critical situations. I’ve got to help them figure out those situations.
“We just have to be tougher. It’s going to be a grind because this is one of the top districts in the state.”
Finishing inside was a chore for the Lady Wildcats on Friday. Early on, plenty of that had to do with the rim protection of junior Mackenzie Wurm, who rejected four Plano shots within the first eight-and-a-half minutes of the ballgame on her way to a six-block night.
“[Wurm] loves to block shots. For us, a block is like a dunk,” Durham said. “It just kills momentum for the other side and she was nice and solid tonight. Those arms extend a long ways.”
Plano’s struggles scoring inside persisted for the remainder of the night, including a stretch inside the game’s final 20 seconds when it logged five offensive rebounds in a single possession but couldn’t muster a basket.
Senior point guard Maggie Robbins and Eddins had their moments generating offense in the paint, tallying 11 and seven points, respectively, on a night when Plano trailed wire-to-wire.
Those two helped the Lady Wildcats trim Allen’s lead down to 29-21 in the third quarter, but Allen got hot from beyond the arc with back-to-back 3-pointers from sophomore Alyssa Tarpley and junior Cierra Trigg to swell the lead back to double figures.
The Lady Eagles nursed that advantage to the finish line, despite failing to record a field goal in the fourth quarter — a symptom of Plano’s trapping man defense, which forced 11 second-half turnovers for Allen, but the Lady Wildcats’ offensive struggles precluded the team from seriously threatening down the stretch.
“We didn’t want to give them anymore open looks. We were scrambling a lot early,” Belcher said. “We struggled at first but got it together and put ourselves in position to come back. We just couldn’t finish some of the good shots we were getting around the basket.”
The Lady Wildcats look to rebound at 7:30 p.m. Friday when they visit Plano West. Allen, meanwhile, hosts McKinney in its second 9-6A ballgame.