McKinney senior Alex Anamekwe finishes off a dunk during Tuesday’s 96-63 blowout of Frisco.

After beginning the 2021-22 season with a pair of double-digit victories, McKinney head boys basketball coach Wes Watson simply wanted his Lions to make a good impression on their fans for Tuesday’s home opener. 

That message was received loud and clear by the state’s No. 4-ranked team in Class 6A.

McKinney opened Tuesday’s ballgame on a 15-0 run, authoring one highlight basket after another on its way to a 96-63 victory over Frisco. The Lions improved to 3-0 on the season with the win, doing so with the team’s highest point total since 2015.

“We talked to them about it being the home opener and wanting to make give the fans a reason to keep coming back, and they really exceeded my expectations,” Watson said. “I know this group has a chance to be really special when they get it cooking, but they were pretty dialed in on both ends of the floor early on. It was fun to watch.”

The Lions ignited a flurry of transition offense to race out to a 35-10 lead through one quarter. One end of the floor complemented the other, with McKinney hounding Frisco’s ball-handlers every inch of the court — often throwing traps at the Raccoons’ backcourt upon crossing halfcourt.

The Lions baited the Raccoons into 20 turnovers in the first half alone, nearly all of which were converted into points on the other end. Those finishes ranging some breakaway dunks to pull-up 3-pointers and even a few alley-oops mixed in — junior Jacovey Campbell lobbed one off the glass to senior Alex Anamekwe in the first quarter for a 15-0 lead that had the crowd buzzing.

One quarter later, Anamekwe served one up for himself, stripping Frisco at midcourt and then tossing the ball off the backboard and back to himself to throw down a dunk.

McKinney’s first-half blitzkrieg staked the reigning 5-6A champs to a 61-23 lead at halftime.

“It was about as good a half as we could have played. It’s a fun group and the sky’s the limit for them,” Watson said. “They know they have an opportunity to do something that this school has never seen before, and we’re going to do everything we can to make it happen. We know that not every game is going to look like this — we’ll have games where we’re not shooting as well and have to rely more on our defense and manufacture points a bit more. But this was great.”

Junior Ja’Kobe Walter led all scorers with 30 points, all coming in the first half. Walter caught fire from the get-go with 19 points in the first quarter, including five consecutive makes from 3-point range. The reigning district MVP, Walter added five rebounds, three assists and three steals before he and the rest of the starters were pulled with 4:52 remaining in the third quarter and the Lions leading, 74-27.

“It’s a tough deal because [Walter] had kind of a historic night building up there,” Watson said. “But at the same time, I look like the dumbest coach in America if he goes out there and tweaks an ankle while we’re up 40. He gets it more than anyone and understands the sacrifice all those kids who got to play tonight make, and he was happy for them.”

Walter was one of four double-digit scorers for McKinney. Campbell and senior Devin Vincent scored 11 points apiece, and Anamekwe chipped in 10 to go along with five steals and two blocks. In total, 11 different Lions found the bottom of the net with the team emptying the bench over the final quarter-and-a-half of action. Seniors Jackson Steele and Christopher Brown Jr. added eight and seven points, respectively, off the bench.

“It was a great first game for us. We got to play a lot of people, nobody got hurt, and those guys playing at the end bust their tails everyday so it was great to reward them,” Watson said.

It was as encouraging a result as Watson could have hoped in the first home game for a McKinney team anxious to build off last season’s 25-3 campaign. The Lions went unbeaten on their way to a district championship but were tripped up by Jesuit in the area round of the playoffs, 64-60. McKinney returns all five starters from that group.

“We just have to play to our standard every time out. We have to be willing to learn from every game — even in the ones where we play well, find those little things we can improve on,” Watson said. “There’s always something we can do a little bit better, and that’s the challenge. We’re far from a finished product and we know we can be a lot better than we are right now. There are so many great teams in this state and we’re going to have to be really, really good to get where we want to be.”

For continued news and coverage on the local sports scene, follow Matt Welch on Twitter.

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