Marcus vs Plano

Marcus senior Cale Martens scored 17 points and blocked five shots on Friday to pace the Marauders to a 65-43 win over Plano in their regular-season finale.

FLOWER MOUND — In its final home game of the season, the Marcus boys basketball team parted District 6-6A with one of the most emphatic performances of its conference schedule.

The Marauders (12-2 in district) never let visiting Plano (6-7) find a rhythm on Friday, limiting the Wildcats to just three points in the opening quarter and catching fire during a 40-point second half to blow open a 65-43 victory and carry a six-game winning streak into the playoffs.

“I think we’re playing really well overall. We’re 18-3 over our last 21 games,” said Shane Rogers, Marcus head coach. “We’re going to have a tough first-round matchup whether it’s Allen or Prosper, but I think we’re capable of winning and keeping this thing going. It’s going to be based on our identity and if our defense shows up.”

That side of the ball set the tone for the Marauders on Friday against Plano. The Wildcats struggled to generate clean looks at the basket and any attempts at attacking the teeth of the Marcus defense were met with a block or an errant shot forced by the Marauders’ frontcourt. Senior Cale Martens led that effort with five blocks on the night, rejecting and altering a myriad of Plano shot attempts.

The 6-foot-7 forward was just as effective on the other end, working the Wildcats in the paint with put-backs and hook shots to pace a 17-point night for the big man.

“[Martens] showed up today, for sure. We’re going to continue to need him at that level,” Rogers said. “I thought he did a great job showcasing his versatility inside and out. That’s maybe the most aggressive I’ve seen with putting the ball on the floor. He had a vengeance tonight, and I’m proud of him.”

Senior Nick Donnelly wasn’t far behind with 13 points, all coming in the second half after battling foul trouble early in the game. He had the hot hand over the final two quarters, including a 3-pointer in the fourth quarter that nudged the point guard over the 1,000-point mark for his high school career.

“Everybody sees the cool moments like tonight, but they don’t realize the hard work that [Donnelly] puts in to get there,” Rogers said. “For him to do that in his last home game is really special. I’m proud of him.”

The Marauders entered Friday’s ballgame already assured no worse than a top two seed in 6-6A. Plano, on the other hand, is still in the hunt for the last playoff spot in the district. Following Friday’s loss, the Wildcats sat a half-game back of fourth-place Hebron, which closed out its regular season with a 47-35 victory over Flower Mound to finish at 7-7.

Plano still has a chance to draw even and force a play-in game with the Hawks, but it’ll require upsetting the district’s top team, Coppell, on Saturday. The Cowboys and Wildcats tip off at 6 p.m. on Plano’s home floor.

The Wildcats face a must-win scenario after Friday’s loss — a game where they received a combined 32 points from the backcourt duo of juniors Xavier Williams (17 points) and Makhi Dorsey (15). No other Wildcat scored more than four points in the loss.

Williams pulled Plano within eight points at 21-13 on a pull-up jumper along the baseline with less than two minutes to play in the first half. The Marauders extended their lead to double figures moments later and never let the Wildcats creep within single digits the rest of the contest.

Marcus led 25-15 at the half before erupting for an 18-7 advantage in the third quarter. Donnelly got rolling with seven points in the third quarter, navigating around Martens screens for some open looks on the perimeter to spark a 13-2 run to begin the second half and blow the contest open.

Twelve different Marauders scored in Friday’s win, with the bench contributing 24 points on the night. Seniors Jalen Lloyd and Myeles Malbrough led that unit with six points each, while juniors Christian Weddington and Dallas Dudley added four points apiece.

While Plano looks to rebound on Saturday to keep its playoff hopes afloat, the Wildcats will have some support from the Marauders. Marcus still has an outside shot at the No. 1 seed and the district title with Coppell (11-1) still having two games to play following a quarantine due to COVID-19 protocols.

The Cowboys played their first game since Feb. 2 on Friday in a 58-42 win over Plano West. Coppell has two games scheduled on Saturday — 9 a.m. at home against Flower Mound and 6 p.m. on the road at Plano — to determine the final pecking order in the district.

“We’ll be watching them right here on these screens while we practice,” Rogers said. “It’s going to be an interesting 24 hours.”

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

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