Opening act: Lobos defeat Frisco in district debut
FRISCO -- With Frisco limiting Little Elm senior forward Biron Joseph to just two points in the first half, senior point guard Devante' Pullum shouldered a heavier load during Tuesday night's District 9-4A opener.
Pullum had no trouble with the pressure, scoring a game-high 23 points to lead the Lobos to a 49-45 road victory.
"[Pullum] has been on a mission all season," said Rusty Segler, Little Elm head coach. "For one, he didn't like that we came up short last year. Two, he's going out and trying to earn a scholarship."
It was the fourth quarter where Pullum shined the most, scoring 12 of his team's 15 points and going 4-for-4 at the free-throw line.
Little Elm needed all 12 of Pullum's points in the frame after Frisco senior guard Kanetis Mays buried a deep three with 1:15 remaining in regulation to make it 45-45.
"[Mays] has been carrying us all season," said Andrew Steele, Frisco head coach. "We've just had too many injuries we're trying to overcome and we've had to lean on him a lot so far."
Pullum then sank a pair of shots at the charity stripe to put his team ahead 47-45 before a defensive stop led to a Pullum layup with seconds on the clock, allowing Little Elm to earn the close victory.
"Anything we steal on the road is going to be incredible," Segler said. "Getting one like this is huge."
The Raccoons opened the game on a 6-3 run and limited the Lobos to just one field goal in the first five-plus minutes of the first quarter. That defensive pressure also held Joseph scoreless in the opening frame and limited Pullum to three points.
"Those two are just so dang good," Steele said. "Our kids executed the game plan pretty well."
Despite Frisco maintaining a small lead for a majority of the first quarter, Little Elm managed to even the score at 10-10 on a layup in the final seconds.
The second quarter began with a bit of drama after Joseph grabbed an offensive rebound and dunked the putback for a potential bucket. Joseph was whistled for an offensive foul on the play though and the dunk was negated, leading to a technical foul on Segler.
Mays converted both technical free throws, beginning a quick 6-0 Frisco run.
Joseph got a second chance later in the quarter and this time would not be denied of a dunk, knotting the game at 16-16 after a 6-0 run from Little Elm.
"If you look back to the Allen game, we've played games like that against great teams," Segler said. "That's experience we drew upon."
With the Lobos clinging to a 22-20 lead in the final minute of the opening half, Mays grabbed an offensive rebound and scored on a quick layup to knot the game at 22-22 entering the break.
The Raccoons then began the second half on a 6-0 run that was capped with Mays sinking a shot from downtown for a 29-23 Frisco advantage.
"We just tried to open the lane up a little bit," Steele said. "We wanted to give our guys some more space to work with."
The adjustment had only temporary impact though, as the Lobos rebounded from the slow start to go on an 11-2 run that was fueled by a pair of jumpers from Joseph.
That dominance to end the frame gave Little Elm a 34-31 lead heading into the final eight minutes of action.
After a pair of buckets from each team, Frisco went from trailing by three points to possessing a four-point lead courtesy of Mays alone. The senior guard scored seven unanswered points, giving the Raccoons a 40-36 advantage with 4:40 remaining in the game.
That's when Pullum took over by taking advantage of Frisco's foul trouble. With the Lobos earning the double bonus early in the quarter, Frisco's defense struggled to keep the Little Elm guards off the charity stripe.
"It killed us," Steele said. "It makes us change the way we play our defense."
The victory puts Little Elm's season mark at 10-4 and gives the Lobos a 1-0 start in District 9-4A. A Friday home meeting against Heritage is next is line for the Lobos.
"We're in a tough district," Segler said. "Any win you can get is huge."
Frisco falls to 9-5 with the loss and will look to rebound from Tuesday's heartbreaker with an 8 p.m. Friday contest at Liberty.