Closely contested all the way through, it was a big fourth quarter by Arlington Martin that unraveled the Allen boys basketball team’s bid for a tournament championship at the Curtis Culwell Invitational.
The Warriors held Allen to just 13 points over the final eight minutes and closed with 18 of their own en route to a 65-62 victory. The loss snapped a run of five consecutive wins for Allen, including three over the course of two days competing in Garland.
Allen led 49-47 through three quarters but fell behind 60-55 with roughly two minutes left to play. Five consecutive points by Femi Olaniyan knotted the count, but Martin kept Allen at bay thanks to a series of made free throws down the stretch.
Olaniyan led all scorers with 24 points in the loss, while senior Miles Gibson posted 11 for Allen.
Martin got a boost from Andre Norris, who scored 19 points, while Magic Cummings (13) and Ismael Smith Flores (11) all cracked double figures for the Warriors.
The Eagles prefaced their meeting against Martin with a strong finish against Frisco Independence in Saturday’s semifinal, stringing together a 16-0 run in the fourth quarter to distance for a 62-46 victory.
Allen trailed only once early on in its semifinal win against Independence, but it was not as easy as the final score indicated.
The Knights were down by as many as 18 points in the first half and were still down double digits coming out of halftime, but they chipped away and chipped away and when Elliott Taite knocked down a 3-pointer, it was suddenly a 46-43 game with six minutes left.
But the Eagles would regain control from that point, holding Independence scoreless for more than five minutes as they reeled off a 14-0 run to put the game away.
Kaiden Myers scored inside and Gibson converted a dunk in transition to push the advantage back to 50-43 halfway through the fourth.
With the defense doing its job, Allen was able to cash in on the other end, as Olaniyan scored on a putback and Zachary Spitzer drained a 3-pointer and then converted back-to-back layups, the latter of which gave them a 60-43 advantage with 1:20 left and that would all but do it.
It had taken both teams some time to get going at the start.
The Eagles led 4-0 before Tristen Sabin scored on a putback and Aiden Leckband hit from behind the arc to give the Knights a 5-4 lead.
Little did Independence know, but it would be its last advantage of the afternoon.
In a sign of things to come, Allen quickly put together a spurt, with Dylan Archey hitting a trey and Kaiden Myers, Trent Pane and Spitzer scoring inside for a quick 9-0 run to open a 13-5 lead.
Archey, who knocked down a trio of 3-pointers in the first half, made one of those at the end of the first quarter to make it 16-8.
The Knights were within seven after a trey from Jaxon Copeland and a turnaround jumper from Santosh Kolluri, but the Eagles’ quick strike attack again did damage.
Olaniyan scored from behind the arc and inside and Myers and Archey followed with 3-pointers of own to cap a 11-0 spurt that took a little less than 90 seconds to open a 31-13 cushion.
Kolluri tried to keep Independence within striking distance with a pair of baskets and Taite made a layup and hit from the outside to close the gap to 35-22 at the break.
Archey remained hot coming out of the locker room, opening the third quarter with a 3-pointer, but it would be Allen’s last bucket for nearly four minutes.
During that time, Copeland scored twice inside and Sabin had one layup called for goaltending and then got the next one to go down to close the gap to 38-30.
Oryne Stewart broke the drought for the Eagles, but the Knights continued their charge, with Sabin knocking down a jumper from the free throw line and Leckband’s layup cutting it to 44-37 at the end of three quarters.
Taite drained a 3-pointer to start the fourth for Independence, and after Allen got a 10-footer from Miles Gibson, Taite knocked down another to make it 46-43, but that was as close as it would get, as the Eagles controlled the final minutes to advance to the championship game.
Eagles start fast, rout Rowlett in tourney opener
Coming off its highest-scoring performance of the season, the Allen boys basketball team kept its foot on the gas in Thursday’s first-round matchup in the Culwell Invitational.
The Eagles blitzed Rowlett with a 19-0 start inside the Curtis Culwell Center, a dizzying onslaught that paced an 80-43 victory and advanced Allen to the second round of the 16-team field.
“I was proud of how we started. I thought we came out focused and really tried to execute our style of play,” said Clark Cipoletta, Allen head coach. “We tried to establish a tempo and apply pressure and really make them play at our pace. It always helps to make shots, too, and we’ve got a lot of shot-makers on the floor.
“With the way our team shared the ball, we hope that can get us to an elite level — the more we share and team defend, I think the better we can be.”
The Eagles came away with points on each of their first eight possessions against Rowlett, including two makes from long range by Archey and another from Olaniyan.
Even misses were subsequently converted into points thanks to Gibson, who hounded the glass to the tune of five offensive rebounds and three put-backs — no coincidence given how Allen has approached rebounding this season.
“I think it was our second game against Eaton, we had two offensive rebounds the entire game,” Cipoletta said. “We watched every single shot attempt and I basically called the entire team and said that this just wasn’t going to get it done. If this is all we have, we’re not going very far or winning too many games.
“I think it was almost embarrassing for them to see on film, so they saw that and have responded to that challenge. They made it a personal mission.”
Gibson scored 15 points to lead Allen as one of 12 different Eagles to record a basket against Rowlett. Archey and Spitzer added nine, and Olaniyan and Myers chipped in eight apiece.
“We always have five guys on the floor who can make a 3-pointer and stretch the floor,” Cipoletta said. “I think it really helps when all five can do that and it just makes us a more versatile team. We also try to push the ball on makes and misses and play fast — a disciplined fast, not an out-of-control fast — and I think that helps us take better shots right now and they’re falling."
-Devin Hasson contributed to this story