The game every McKinney High player, coach, and fan had circled on the calendar was finally here. It is only fitting that the outcome wasn’t decided until the final buzzer went off.
Highland Park (18-2, 5-0) remained perfect in District 10-4A boys basketball play with a thrilling 62-61 victory against the Lions (13-8, 4-1) on Friday night at MHS. The game began with a chorus of boos raining down from the MHS student section as the Scots made their way out onto the floor. It appeared to everyone in the gym that tonight was not just another Friday night matchup. This one had playoffs written all over it.
And while the first 31 minutes and 13 seconds were pretty intense, nothing compared to the final 47.
With a one-point lead, Highland Park turned the ball over on a very close backcourt violation, giving the Lions renewed confidence and a chance to take to late lead. Then with 23 seconds left, the Lions’ Jonathan Shannon, who finished with 19 points on the evening, drove to the lane through several Scot players but missed the potential game-winning basket.
However, after being forced out of bounds by the Lions furious press, the Scots turned it over once again to the Lions. After a timeout with 7 seconds left, McKinney High put the game in the hands of Shannon, who battled against a very stingy Highland Park defense, but came up just short on the layup attempt.
While the players seemed dejected following the loss, MHS coach Wes Watson was encouraged by what he saw from his players even in defeat and believes that the loss may be helpful down the road.
“What we hope is that this taste of defeat can fuel the fire as we keep playing on,” Watson said. “It’s all about making the small plays and that’s what it came down to tonight.”
While the outcome is not what Lions supporters hoped for, the team proved they can hang toe-to-toe with the Scots, who are led by the No. 2 leading scorer in the area, David Allen, who had 23 points on the night. It is safe to say that Feb.7 can’t come soon enough for these Lions, who will be hungry to walk into Highland Park for a district rematch.
The scariest moment of the evening came with 1:23 left in the fourth, when AJ Moutry, the district’s leading scorer who had scored 96 combined points in the previous two games, was hit hard in the eye by a Scots player. Moutry was down for about a minute while being attended to but did manage to finish the game. Reports were that Moutry’s contact was knocked out of his eye on the collision, but it appears as though there is nothing serious about the injury.
Moutry led the Lions with 20 points on the night. He also started the Lions’ scoring with two quick three-pointers that ignited the Lions fans. The Scots were intent on throwing multiple zone looks at the Lions all night, but from the beginning the Lions were effective in getting the ball down low to their big men. On defense, MHS attacked the Scots with a full-court press almost constantly, forcing Highland Park to be perfect with their passes and stay within their lanes. While the Scots did manage to get behind the Lions defense several times in transition, the aggressive and opportunistic strategy did account for several key Highland Park turnovers late in the game.
Each team possessed a five-point lead in the first half, with Highland Park going into the locker room up 34-29. Both teams made several adjustments at the break, but the Scots were able to keep the lead for almost the entire second half, getting the margin all the way up to nine in the fourth quarter. The Scots were intent on getting to the foul line on almost every possession, using their size and athleticism to force the Lions to hack in the paint.
“It’s a concern we had coming into this matchup,” Watson said, regarding Highland Park’s athletic abilities down low.
McKinney High plays game three of its five-game home stand Tuesday night as they welcome Wylie (10-12, 1-4). This is their first meeting of the season. Game time is approximately 7:30 p.m.
Story by TSB contributor Mike Bruu.
Photos in story by TSB contributor Shelby Tauber. They are available for purchase on the TSB Glam Cam, located on our home page. All the MHS-Highland Park pictures on Glam Cam can be viewed by clicking here.