ALLEN – Allen head boys basketball coach Joe McCullough was curious to see how his Eagles would respond to a quick turnaround.
Allen had rallied from a 15-point, first-quarter deficit to take a late lead on Prosper, only to see Prosper bury a shot as time expired in the fourth quarter to force overtime in Friday’s game. In the extra session, Prosper outscored Allen by 13 points to escape with a 79-66 victory.
Fast-forward to less than 24 hours later, and Allen was back on the court Saturday afternoon. This time around, Allen didn’t relinquish another lead. Thanks to a gritty defensive effort and a 34-point performance by senior Ian Motta, the Eagles vanquished Little Elm, 53-39.
“We were dragging, a tough overtime loss on Friday,” McCullough said. “I was worried about how we were going to come out of the gates. We were a little sluggish. But, when we got to the third quarter, we amped it up a little bit.
“We were really good on the glass after the first quarter. We got after it defensively, preventing them from getting to the rim and do the things that they wanted. I feel like that we still have another gear, but to come out here and get even in district, it gives us a chance to grow from here.”
Little Elm (5-5 overall, 0-1 District 5-6A), meanwhile, was playing in its first district game of the season and its first game since Dec. 18 due to COVID-19 protocols that prevented the team from being on the court.
Less than 30 seconds into the game, it was a pair of juniors that teamed up to deliver the first points of 2021 for Little Elm. Ibrahima Diallo corralled a defensive rebound then lobbed a pass to Isaac Berry in the front court. Berry took made a layup to give the Lobos a 2-0 lead.
Berry scored seven points to pace Little Elm. Brian Hunter, Jr. and Walter Roddy-White each had six points.
“One thing that our guys are going to hang their hat on is that they’re going to play hard,” said Dominique Parker, Little Elm head coach. “We’re going to play hard. We’re going to compete every second that we’re on the floor. I thought we did a good job of doing that. There was just a lid on the basket in the second half. We couldn’t throw it in the ocean standing on the beach.”
Defensively, Little Elm closed out well on Allen’s ball handlers and held the Eagles to 50 points. Offensively, it was a struggle for the Lobos. Allen (10-4, 2-2) held Little Elm to nine or fewer points in three of the four quarters. The Lobos scored just 15 points in the first half.
After Roddy-White took advantage of a defensive breakdown by Allen and made a layup to tie the score at 9-9 less than a minute into the second quarter, Motta proceeded to make his presence felt.
Motta, a Buckell pledge, scored 13 straight points for Allen and did it in a variety of ways, including a play late in the second quarter in which he dribbled to his left to shed a Little Elm defender and banked a jump shot off the glass for a 22-11 Eagle advantage.
Motta’s biggest highlight came in the third quarter, when he blocked a 3-point attempt by Little Elm and ran the court for a dunk for a 41-28 Allen lead.
“Just found spots,” Motta said. “My teammates found me and I knocked down some shots.”
Dylan Archey, Mason Gibson and Jackson Wright also stepped up for Allen in a 17-point third quarter for the Eagles in which they played with great energy and controlled the glass. Wright scored all four of his points during the third quarter. Archey buried an open 3-pointer. Gibson completed an and-one opportunity with a field goal and subsequent free throw.