Varsity basketball falls to Allen in State semifinal

Out-coached, out-worked, out-played. Those aren’t phrases Westlake fans have been very familiar with this season as the team went 36-3 en route to the first State final four in school history.

With the No. 1 team in Texas, Guyer, knocked out in the regional finals by Allen, No. 2 Westlake came into the State tournament with high hopes and a target on their backs. They were the team to beat, and Allen did just that, 55-70, Friday night at the Alamodome in the State semifinal.

The Eagles controlled the tempo of the game throughout, leading for over 28 minutes compared to the measly one minute Westlake had. They went right at Westlake’s bigs and forced junior Will Baker out of the game with two fouls in the first quarter. Although he only picked up only two more fouls the rest of the game, Allen dominated inside and out-scored Westlake 36-26 in the paint.  

And the dominance didn’t just end inside. Allen shot 7-11 from beyond the arc and 25-38 from the field overall. Their second half stats were even more impressive as Westlake couldn’t find an answer defensively for Allen’s quickness. The Eagles shot 13-14 from the field after the break, and got 14 points from senior Jaylon Scott in that frame.

“A lot of stuff that happens in the game comes from preparation,” Westlake head coach Robert Lucero said. “It doesn’t happen necessarily from the decisions you make in the game. When you have a locker room full of guys who are going to work hard, listen and try and follow the game plan and try and do what you ask them to do, I think it comes back to how you prepared them. That’s not them, that’s on me. I feel like I didn’t do as good a job of preparing them for the game this week.”

On another night, Westlake may have still been able to pull out a win. They went into the halftime break down by just two points, even while going 4-12 from long-range and shooting 38.5 percent from the field in the first quarter.

But their shooting woes continued in the second half, and they went 3-14 from downtown and 10-29 from the field.

“We were shooting really well in warmups, and I thought we were going to come out and shoot it really well,” senior Keonte Kennedy said. “I think they scouted us really well. They tripled on the post with Will, so they just had a really good game plan.”  

While their celebration suggested otherwise, Allen’s players didn’t seem fazed in postgame interviews by the fact that they had just upset the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the state of Texas. Senior Jerritt Dixon, who finished the game with 12 points and six assists, said the team was “hungry” and fought every possession with the bigger Westlake players.  

“I thought our kids did a great job of preparing all week and buying into what we needed to do to be successful,” Allen head coach Jeff McCullough said. “Lot of talent over there [with Westlake], but we were able to make a little bit of a run and play our game the last 10-12 minutes. We made it a game of quickness instead of a game of size, and it took a lot to get to that point, but I thought our kids did a tremendous job.

Their work isn’t finished yet as they return to the Alamodome tomorrow night at 8:30 p.m. to face Katy Tompkins in the 6A State final.

“We’re just going to keep doing what we’ve been doing,” Jerritt said. “Stay hungry, stay humble and just try to get prepared tonight as best as we can.”

For the four senior starters on Westlake, the loss meant the end of everything they had worked towards these past four years. It was only accented by having to stay on the court after the game to receive medals. Keonte took his off immediately following the team picture.

What made it even harder was how tight-knit they were as a group. Senior Matthew Mayer said it was the closest team he’s ever been a part of, and senior Luke Pluymen talked about how they really were “family.”

“I know I’m a bit biased, but this was my favorite team by far,” Luke said. “This team is a family — I love all of these dudes. I’m going to stay in contact with these dudes until I die, so this is a family.”

Ending the season on a loss hurts more, but Lucero acknowledged that the season would have had to end at some point.

“If we had won tonight and won tomorrow, we were still going to have some disappointment,” he said. “The disappointment comes because you’re not going to be able to be together anymore. They’ve done such a great job of growing. I know that I’m really proud of them.

“I’m really proud of who they’ve become, I’m really proud of how they play, I’m proud of the strides they’ve made this year as a group. That’s not the disappointment I have. They’re a team that everyone seems to be really proud of, and that’s a testament to them and how much they have grown as a group. They’ve done a lot with their high school careers. They’ve won a lot of basketball games, they’ve taken all of us coaches to places that we hadn’t been before, so we’re pretty grateful to them.”