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Stuck in first gear: Plano fails to match Allen's pace in third straight 10-5A loss
It took nearly six minutes on Friday night for the smelling salts to revive the Allen boys basketball team.
And what happened was a run that averted Plano Senior's tenacious start and left the Wildcats in the rearview mirror in a 58-44 Eagles win.
"Early on, our whole thing was to pressure [Plano] and get after them," said Jeff McCullough, Allen head coach. "There were some calls that made our kids a bit hesitant and Plano threw some things at us that caught us a little off-balance, but they eventually settled in and got going."
That gear was shifted with 2:30 left in the first following an and-1 by Allen junior Myron Fisher, who had 14 points, five rebounds and four steals in the win.
It pulled the Eagles (11-11, 3-0) to within one of Plano (11-14, 0-3) at 6-5 and sparked what would be an 11-2 run to close the opening frame. Allen junior Blake Williams knocked down a 3-ball, senior Cameron Epps scored an and-1 and sophomore Olin Carter fed senior Joe Miller underneath for a layup during the run.
On the Wildcats' end, senior Dustin Bercutt put Allen in a 6-3 hole with a putback dunk that highlighted his 11-point, eight-rebound outing.
Offense proved scarce after that score, which transpired with 4:30 left in the first.
"We missed some shots that we probably could have made," said Phil Parlin, Plano head coach. "I think we counted about four at the rim that missed and when those don't go in, it's tough to recover against a team like [Allen]."
The Wildcats scored just four points over the next eight minutes and, just like that, stared at a 21-10 deficit that stayed intact heading into halftime at 29-18.
"[Allen's] quickness hurt us," Parlin said. "It makes it very difficult for us ... We just struggled offensively and that's been the story for us all season. Ball pressure really hurt us and we have to find ways to handle that."
Epps epitomized that quickness, slicing and dicing his way to the basket for 16 points and three assists.
"They got [Epps] off balance tonight with some traps, but with a guy like that you can spread him out and he's a great asset to have," McCullough said. "With him on the floor, teams can't press us and we can always create easy baskets with him."
Epps earned six of his points from the charity stripe, a spot where Allen camped out all evening. Obtaining the bonus in the first quarter, the Eagles capitalized with 29 free throws -- albeit a mark that included just 13 makes.
"One of our goals is to be the more aggressive team," McCullough said. "We want to make more free throws than the other team shoots and that was tough tonight. They threw a lot of traps at us but our kids stayed aggressive and attacked."
That intensity was evident on defense, with Allen's ball pressure pacing a 7-2 run to start the third. Carter bagged his third steal, to go along with eight points, and found Fisher for a layup and 36-20 lead with 5:38 left in the third. The Wildcats never sunk that deficit into single digits, despite eight points from junior Broderick Perkins and six from sophomores Jason Bardgett and Sam Tecklenburg.
Allen couldn't keep its undefeated 10-5A run going Tuesday night though as the Eagles dropped a first-place showdown to No. 4 state-ranked Plano East, 66-54.
Now 3-1 in district, Allen is tied for second place with Plano West, which it will travel to face at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
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