Wednesday marked the 27th ESPY Awards, the annual ceremony devoted to honoring standout professional and collegiate athletes and teams of the past year.
It’s the sports equivalent to the Oscars or Grammys, so why not put a high school spin on the concept?
Over the past school year, Allen and Lovejoy have showcased no shortage of notable individual and team athletic achievements, so it is only appropriate to put the last season of local citywide sports into an award-winning perspective. In the coming weeks, the city’s top athletes, teams and games will be recognized among nine different awards.
With that said, Star Local Media presents the seventh edition of The Varsitys.
Matt Welch: Isaiah Stevens vs. Jesuit boys basketball (Jan. 2)
Although this one came in a loss, the Eagles’ prized sharpshooter had a career night trying to keep Allen afloat against fellow 9-6A titan Jesuit in the first meeting between the two.
Stevens scored 44 points on 18-of-32 shooting, including a 6-of-14 clip from beyond the arc, along with four rebounds, three rebounds and three steals in the Eagles’ 78-72 setback. Stevens had the Lowery Freshman Center crowd buzzing with his array of highlight-reel buckets, requiring only two free-throw attempts to produce his career-high scoring mark.
With Jesuit’s pack-line defense walling off Allen’s hopes of scoring at the rim, Stevens became all three of his offense’s lifelines – accounting for 18 of the team’s 30 made field goals and all six of their made 3-pointers – and nearly willed the team to the finish line against a deep Jesuit bunch.
Taylor Raglin: Cydni Adams vs. Prosper girls basketball (Feb. 23)
While Allen alum Cydni Adams will likely be remembered most for her last-second putback against Sachse that sent the Lady Eagles to the regional tournament last season, it was her performance against district rival Prosper in the Region II-6A final that was likely the biggest of her career.
Following that dramatic buzzer-beater against the Lady Mustangs, which came during her birthday week, no less, Adams earned a spot start in the regional final bout. In a wild comeback that saw Allen rally from down 15 points to take down Prosper, 58-53, Adams leveraged that trust from head coach Teresa Durham into a 15-point afternoon that paced the Lady Eagles and helped propel them to their first ever state tournament appearance.
Matt Welch: Teresa Durham, Allen girls basketball
The Lady Eagles authored the greatest season in program history in 2018-19, culminating in a trip to the Class 6A state semifinals.
The banner finish didn’t come without a few bumps in the road, as Allen felt the brunt of a difficult district schedule during double-digit losses to Plano Senior and Prosper, plus an overtime win over Plano East, through the first half of 9-6A play. The talent was there, but the Lady Eagles’ ability to handle the mental rigors against playoff-level competition made it fair to wonder if they would make good on the potential shown earlier in the season.
With Durham and her staff at the helm, tweaking the rotation and experimenting with new defenses, Allen righted the ship over the second half of district play – avenging those aforementioned losses and showcasing a knack for late-game execution. They carried that momentum into the playoffs with hallmark wins over Sachse, Pflugerville Hendrickson and Prosper to qualify for state for the first time ever.
Taylor Raglin: Jason Nicholson, Lovejoy volleyball
It's not often that a school's best coach is no longer employed come summertime, but such was the case at Lovejoy this season.
While the school had several impressive candidates in baseball head coach Jason Wilson, who took him team to the third round, football coach Todd Ford, who made an area-round appearance, and first-year softball coach Brittany Lee, who had a strong first season behind the bench, Nicholson and his run to the state championship game with the Lady Leopards take the cake.
While expectations were certainly high entering the campaign, getting to the program's ninth state tournament is still no easy task, and Nicholson's program looked dominant right up until its loss in the state final. Though he was let go, Nicholson had the school's best year behind the bench in 2018-19.
Matt Welch: Plano boys soccer defeats Allen (Feb. 20)
Sorry Eagle fans, but as the state’s largest high school and a perennial, well-rounded juggernaut in athletics, Allen just isn’t going to be springing upsets on too many opponents anymore.
As such, this mid-February clash between the surging Eagles and an up-and-down Wildcats bunch sent a minor shockwave through 9-6A. Allen entered the contest only twice beaten through its first 15 matches, while Plano sported a sub-.500 record through the first round of district play.
Momentum, or lack thereof, was mere a word in the dictionary during the Feb. 20 rematch between the two rivals, with the Wildcats blitzing Allen with goals from Nick Friend and Erik Pena for a 2-0 lead that held until a second-half penalty kick by Allen alum Reed Berry. Plano’s eventual upset victory marked one of only two times all season that a team scored multiple goals against the Eagles.
Taylor Raglin: Humble Kingwood Park volleyball defeats Lovejoy (Nov. 17)
Speaking of the Lovejoy volleyball team, there was another unusual circumstance this season in that the school's biggest upset came on the grandest stage, as the Lady Leopards fell by way of a sweep to Humble Kingwood Park in the state championship game.
While it's difficult to call any result in a state final an upset, the way in which the Lady Leopards were defeated stands out. Lovejoy had won 21 consecutive matches entering the state championship game and had dropped just four sets across that winning streak, making the quick, 3-0 setback at the hands of Kingwood Park incredibly uncharacteristic and unlikely.
It wasn't that the sets themselves weren't competitive, but the title seemed Lovejoy's to lose. In the end, though, Kingwood Park solved what many had not on its way to its first trophy.