THE COLONY – Senior E.J. Clark continues to shine for the McKinney boys basketball team, and he’ll get at least one more chance to fill up a box score after a playoff win on Tuesday.
Clark scored 30 points, junior Michael Hartford and sophomore Aaron Brown added timely 3-point shooting and the Lions upset Flower Mound, the No. 2 seed from District 5-6A, 54-47, in the bi-district playoff round from Tommy Thomas Gymnasium at The Colony High School.
McKinney will play state-ranked Shoemaker on Friday in the area round of the 6A playoffs.
The Metroplex’s leading scorer at 28 points per game, Clark started hot with nine first-quarter points. His heroics included three 3-pointers in the third quarter during a key run for the Lions, and he hit two free throws with 20 seconds remaining to give McKinney a four-point lead.
“He looked awesome tonight,” said Wes Watson, McKinney head coach. “When he’s on like that, I truly believe we can compete with anybody. We’re going to ride him for as long as we can.”
Even with Clark’s heroics, Flower Mound had a chance to tie the game late when senior point guard Adam Dworsky was fouled attempting a layup. He missed both free throws, Antonio Lyons grabbed the rebound for McKinney, and the Lions converted free throws to ice the game.
Playing without the services of 6-6 senior Camryn Givens, McKinney used a mixture of zone and man-to-man defense to frustrate Flower Mound’s three imposing centers; freshman Caleb Lohner and juniors Cade Southerland Colton Martin combined for only 11 points
Both teams started hot from outside, as Flower Mound seniors Bryce Boyd and John Scully combined for 15 first-quarter points from the 3-point line. But Hartford hit two of his own in the opening frame, and the Jaguars only led by two, 16-14, after one quarter.
Scully finished with 18 points and five 3-pointers, and almost single-handedly erased a seven-point McKinney lead in the third quarter with two unanswered threes in less than 20 seconds.
“[Scully] is just so good,” Watson said. “We lost him a couple of times, and you just can’t give him any space at all. They’ve got so many good shooters that we really had to play up on defense all night.”
The Jaguars finished 11-of-18 from 3-point territory but turned the ball over 14 times, which head coach Eric Littleton said was “about seven more than we’d like” in a playoff game.
“In a game of this magnitude, we’d like to stay in the seven- to eight-turnover range,” he said. “That’s an extra seven possessions for McKinney, and they were able to get shots off on all of those possessions. So, we didn’t play well, but give credit to McKinney in how well they played. McKinney is a well-coached team and they do what they do well.”
Littleton was effusive in his praise of his own players following the loss, calling this year’s Jaguars “the best team in Flower Mound history.”
“I love my guys so much,” he said. “This group of guys at Flower Mound has won more games in a two-year stretch than any other team in the history of the school. They made the playoffs in back-to-back years, had the best finish in district in school history and they have a lot to be proud of.”
The ride continues for the Lions, who finished in third place in 6-6A and will look to advance past the area round into the regional quarterfinals set for Feb. 27 and 28.
“This is just such a fun group of guys to coach,” Watson said. “It’s truly a special group of guys.”
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