In a battle between two extremely talented teams, the host Mustangs of Allen used a well-orchestrated defense and balanced scoring attack to keep the potent offense of the visiting Chieftains at bay and come up with an impressive 77-64 win.
The Mustangs had seven players make the scoring column Monday and were led by Jaret Holland, Cole Young and Lane Mills with 23, 19 and 15 points, respectively.
“We played well and played together. I thought we did a great job of moving the ball and finding the open man,” said Allen head coach Greg Mills. “Wetumka is a good ball team, and they are very well-coached. I was proud of our effort tonight.”
Allen — which improved to 14-8 on the year — had just defeated Wetumka 67-49 during the semifinals of last week’s Tri-County Tournament in Shawnee.
Both teams were hot in the first quarter, trading baskets on a very well-played stretch which saw Young and Holland combine for 13 points. But it was Tyler Cruse of Wetumka who had the hot hand, scoring 10 of his game-high 27 points in the first eight minutes and giving the Mustang defense fits. The visiting Chieftains held a 19-17 lead after one quarter of play.
Allen’s pressure defense in the second was centered on keeping the ball out of Cruse’s hands, and it worked, holding him to just four points.
In fact, the Allen defense caused a Wetumka turnover to start the second quarter, and reserve Logan Dennis hit a shot off the glass at the 7:33 mark to tie the game at 19-19. Holland scored two more points with 7:21 showing after the Allen defense caused another Chieftain turnover on a steal by Young, giving Allen its first lead since the early in the first period.
Allen would later extend the lead to six on a 3-point basket by Connor Johnson with 4:56 to go in the half. In the waning minutes of the first half, coach Mills had his troops hold the ball for one final play. Johnson set it in motion with 14 seconds to go, and Lane Mills connected on a beautiful shot from beyond the arc with 6.3 seconds left.
The Chieftains quickly got the ball up the floor, and Jake Briggs was able to get a shot off in the lane and draw the foul on Zayne Erickson with no time remaining. Briggs hit one free throw, but Allen still led 37-33 at the break.
During the third quarter, the Mustangs continued their pressure defense, and Erickson was able to connect on a pair of free throws at the 7:32 mark to push the Allen lead to 39-34. The Mustangs would gain their biggest lead so far at 48-39 on a beautiful assist from Young to Erickson with 4:59 to go in the quarter.
Allen would again opt to hold the ball for one shot in the final 1:20 of the period. With just five ticks to go, Johnson misfired from beyond the arc, but fellow teammate and key reserve Joseph Hopper was there for the offensive board and putback as time ran out. The Mustangs' lead held by 11, 58-47.
Over the final eight minutes of play, the Mustangs used a patient offense, good ball control and key free throws to walk away with the 13-point win.
The Mustangs decided to go to a four-corner spread offense in the final three minutes of the game, forcing the foul-plagued Chieftains to foul more often to regain possession of the ball, and it worked like a charm. Allen made six trips to the charity stripe and hit an impressive 10-of-12 free throws to hold Wetumka at bay.
Allen will travel to Davis on Thursday.