All season long, the Allen boys basketball team has authored one of the state’s top regular-season records on the strength of its three returning starters — seniors Thailand Elder, Bryce Kennedy and junior Manny Obaseki.
That trio helped the state-ranked Eagles navigate through their toughest week of the regular season — one that began Tuesday with a 78-71 double-overtime victory over McKinney Boyd and continued Friday after Allen withstood a furious effort from second-place Prosper to eke out a 78-75 victory.
Friday’s win assured the Eagles no worse than a split of the District 9-6A championship — a feat Allen can turn into the program’s first outright conference title since 1992 with a win Tuesday over Plano West.
“Our guys shared the district championship last year with Jesuit, but that was bittersweet and our guys don’t want any part of that,” said Joe McCullough, Allen head coach. “It was big tonight to get to that point, but our guys aren’t satisfied. We need to carry that mentality into Tuesday’s game against Plano West.”
They’ll do so fresh off a dramatic victory over a Prosper team that dealt Allen its share of adversity on Friday — riding a hot-shooting first half to a double-digit lead that swelled as large as 15 points following a put-back dunk by senior Austin Atkinson with 2:15 left in the second quarter for a 37-22 advantage.
Allen showed signs of life behind and-one finishes inside from Obaseki and junior Bryson Green to help close the gap to 41-31 by halftime — just its second double-digit deficit through two quarters this season.
“We just talked about not flinching. When things are tough, we’re not going to flinch,” McCullough said. “They gave us all they had — we had a choice to either accept that or do something about it. In the third quarter, we were able to reverse that and were fortunate that we were the ones to come out on top in the fourth, because that’s a really good team.”
Allen’s veteran trio willed the second-half comeback, with Elder, Obaseki and Kennedy combining to score 41 of the team’s 47 points over the final two quarters. The stars took turns sharing the limelight, with Elder initially sparking the rally behind a flurry of tough finishes inside — each bucket further energizing the arena — as part of a personal 10-0 run to trim Prosper’s lead to 48-46 with 2:49 left in the third stanza.
“It was a different Thai from what you normally see,” McCullough said. “It wasn’t the catch-and-shoot Thai knocking down a bunch of threes. It was a guy who took it on himself to go out and make plays. He went to the glass and made plays, he made plays in transition. He had a mindset that I think rubbed off on the rest of the team.”
Obaseki and Kennedy then took the reins in the fourth quarter, accounting for 22 of Allen’s 25 points over the final eight minutes after combining for just seven points through the first three quarters. Kennedy’s free-throw making was vital in the win, knocking down six shots from the charity stripe in the fourth quarter, while Obaseki scored 12 of his 17 points in the fourth stanza — highlighted by a thunderous dunk with 3:01 left that put Allen up 68-63 and unglued the home gymnasium.
“We see Manny dunk all the time, but when he does it in the flow of a game like tonight it energizes the whole place. A team like ours is pretty emotional and feeds off that stuff even more so,” McCullough said.
Allen leads Prosper 68-63 with 3:01 left in the 4th after this monster dunk by Manny Obaseki! What a punch! pic.twitter.com/80VwpDxRJy— Matt Welch (@MWelchSLM) February 8, 2020
Despite Allen’s surge, Prosper stayed game to the finish line — thanks in large part to the fourth-quarter shooting of senior Ammon Allan, who knocked down a pair of 3-pointers and sunk six straight free throws as part of a 12-point fourth quarter en route to a team-best 19 points.
“I liked that his teammates recognized that and found a way to keep getting him the ball,” said Jonathan Ellis, Prosper head coach. “We gave him a great screen on an inbounds play that we haven’t run all year to get him an open three in the corner. I think our guys know how to feed off who’s hot.”
In the first half, that mantle was carried by senior Mondo Battle, who exceeded his 13 points scored in Prosper’s initial meeting with Allen on Jan. 14 with a 14-point first half on Friday. Battle went on to tally 19 points, including a trio of 3-pointers as part of a scorching-hot start from beyond the arc.
Prosper, which dropped to 8-3 in district, combined to make 11 shots from long range, outscoring Allen from deep 21-3 during the first half. Junior Grant Shaw added 16 points in the defeat.
Allen, meanwhile, received double-digit scoring nights from Elder (21 points), Obaseki (17), junior Mason Gibson (13) and Kennedy (12) in improving to 11-0 in district play.
“You never know with our group who’s going to be that guy. Tonight, it was different guys in different moments, but that’s the nice thing about having a team where every one of our starting five has been the leading scorer at some point in district,” McCullough said. “We’ve had multiple guys put up 20 in a game and having that luxury makes it tough for other teams to concentrate on one or two guys.”
Allen looks to carry the momentum of a dramatic week into Tuesday’s 7:30 p.m. tipoff at West, while Prosper, which suffered just its third single-digit loss of the season, looks to bounce back Tuesday at home against Plano Senior.
“If you look at our other five losses this year, they’ve all been similar to this, except with implosions at the end. Tonight, we gave ourselves meaningful timeouts and a chance to win the game,” Ellis said. “They did their job and made their free throws, so that’s a huge building block. We got to work on so many things tonight that we haven’t had a chance to work on that’ll help us win playoff games in the future.”