By Mike Bruu, TSB Sports Editor
Beat your crosstown rivals and you control your destiny to the playoffs.
The motivation was simple for both McKinney High and McKinney Boyd entering the teams’ third meeting this season, and the second matchup in District 10-5A action. Both teams entered Tuesday night’s game with identical 1-6 records in 10-5A, tied for fourth with Plano for the last playoff berth in the district.
After the teams had split the first two meetings at Boyd, with the Lions winning the official district game on Jan. 18, the Broncos won the season series with a 61-45 road victory over the Lions in a game that was much closer than the final score would appear. With the win, Boyd improved to 2-6 in 10-5A and 18-9 overall, moving into sole possession of fourth place. McKinney dropped to 1-7 in 10-5A and 16-12 overall, falling into a tie for last place with Plano.
“Last time, I talked about that we didn’t make the extra pass and weren’t really looking for each other, but tonight we did all those things,” said Boyd head coach Dean Christian. “We made the extra pass and played team basketball, and more than that we played team defense.”
Both student sections came out in full force to support the local teams, with the Lions fans hosting a pre-game party that included a car bash outside of the gym. While the Broncos section was rowdy from the opening tip, the Lions students decided to wait until the 3:45 mark in the first quarter to stand up and begin getting loud, a move that confused many fans in the gym as the Lions had turned the ball over at the exact moment as they began to cheer, which gave the appearance like the fans were cheering for their own team’s turnover.
On the court the Lions came out with a slightly different starting lineup, as starting guard Red Shannon was benched to start the game because of picking up two technical fouls in the last game versus Allen. Junior guard Jontell Rocquemore started in his place to begin the game.
From the opening tip the Broncos came out more aggressive on both ends of the court, as they finished the first quarter on a 14-3 run to make it 21-9 entering the second frame. Boyd spread the wealth around throughout the early run, as nine different players scored points in the opening quarter. The Lions didn’t help themselves from the free throw line, missing three-of-six attempts in the quarter. McKinney would finish 14-of-26 from the charity stripe on the night.
The hole got deeper for the Lions to begin the second quarter as the Broncos scored the first four points of the frame to make it 25-9. After a Lions timeout with 6:45 left in the half, McKinney head coach Wes Watson said after the game that his team stayed composed and began chipping away at the lead instead of shying away from the pressure.
“I don’t feel like our kids panicked when it was 25-9,” said Watson. “I thought they held it together and they have been in situations like that before. Not that we like to be in situations like that but we have in the past.”
The Lions finished the half on a 12-5 run to cut the lead to 30-21, with Shannon scoring six of his team-high 14 points in the quarter. Shannon was playing through early foul trouble and sat the beginning of the second quarter as well after picking up a technical foul late in the first quarter.
It appeared as though the Broncos may be in trouble in the third quarter, after the Lions stormed out to a 7-2 run to slice the Boyd lead to 32-28. The Broncos had turned the ball over seven times in the first four minutes of the second half, contributing to layups and free throws on the other end for McKinney.
Needing a player to step up and make some big plays, Faisal Mansour hit a long jumper and a three-pointer to extend the Broncos’ lead to nine, silencing the Lions crowd who had gained momentum in the second half. Mansour finished with a game-high 17 points for Boyd in the winning effort.
“(Mansour) is a big time player and you look at him and wouldn’t think he was a basketball player, but his heart is bigger than anyone’s on the court and he plays with tenacity,” said Christian. “It was good to have him out there because he is an added element and he got us over the hump when things were touch-and-go there for a moment. He made some big buckets and then everyone else kind of got in the flow.”
The Broncos led 45-35 entering the final eight minutes of the game with Shannon and Fuentes both playing with four fouls for the Lions. After a Mansour three-pointer extended the lead to 13, Shannon and Fuentes combined for the team’s first six points of the fourth to make it 48-41.
Unfortunately Fuentes would watch the rest of the game from the bench with about five minutes left, after fouling out with eight points. From that point on, Boyd outscored McKinney 13-4 to put the game well out of hand in the waning minutes of the contest. The only drama that remained was whether the Broncos student section would rush the court following the team’s win.
Back on Jan. 18 the Lions students rushed the floor at Boyd after winning the crosstown rivalry, but when Bronco students gathered along the railings and prepared to storm the court, principals and police officers blocked off the students, angering many on the Boyd sideline, including Christian.
But after the dust had settled, Christian said after the game that he respected the team that McKinney is, and said senior night may have had an emotional effect on the team.
“That is a great team and they have some outstanding players that anyone would love to have in our district,” said Christian. “My hat goes off to them because they battled and fought hard. Sometimes I think all the festivities of senior night and the drain of the whole thing kind of hurts sometimes instead of helping things. You have your mind on so many things and it is so emotional, that I think it kind of took its toll on them over the course of the game.”
While Boyd now is in the drivers seat for the final playoff berth in 10-5A, Watson and the Lions understand they need to win out and get some help along the way to have a shot at playing into late February.
“We need help,” said Watson with a slight chuckle. “I’ll be quite frank, Boyd has a really good team and they are capable of winning out. If they do that they get in, and we have to have help. I hate to pull against Boyd because I am a good friend with Dean (Christian), but we are going to need them to lose. They were in the same position as we were entering tonight with our backs against the wall, and they made the plays down the stretch and came away with a big win.”
Watson said that he wants to finish out the final two games of the regular season trying to get back to playing Lions basketball, a team that plays loose and doesn’t press offensively.
“Our guys aren’t in the locker room making excuses,” Watson said. “They are frustrated and they know they are better than this, and us not making free throws and not making shots that are makeable is on us, and we own that.
“I love what we do, how we play, and the energy that we play with, but I think there are times that we really start to press offensively. Not just a few guys but a lot of our guys have a lot of pride in what we do as a team, and a lot of them puts a lot on their shoulders and wants to do well, and I think that makes them press sometimes on offense. We want to play fast but mentally slow the game down. That’s what I would like to see in these final two games.”
Boyd will play its final two games versus Plano West and at Plano, and Christian said that he is proud of his team’s performance tonight because they gave themselves a chance to legitimately make the postseason and have these final two games mean something.
“You have to have some confidence and motivation going into the home stretch. It is no secret that we need these two ballgames to go into the tournament for the first time in school history,” said Christian. “At least we gave ourselves a chance tonight. It is not over because McKinney is not out of it. They are so well coached that they are never out of it.”
Boyd will host Plano West (5-3) on Friday night, beginning at 7:30 p.m. McKinney will travel to Plano (1-7) on Friday night in a potential elimination game, beginning at 7:30 p.m.