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No place like home: Coppell rides hot start past Allen, into 2nd round



PLANO, TX— The Coppell boys basketball team didn’t look like a group barely afforded any practice time over the past week due to inclement weather.

With an unexpected home game to begin their postseason campaign, the Cowboys didn’t miss a beat to start Saturday’s bi-district matchup against Allen — scoring 20 points in the opening frame to set the tone for a 64-46 victory and a spot in the area round of the Class 6A playoffs.

“After being off because of the weather, you’re never sure how your team is going to start,” said Clint Schnell, Coppell head coach. “I was ecstatic, though. I thought the energy was perfect, they executed the game plan perfectly, but we also knew Allen wouldn’t lay down.”

The Cowboys set the tone on defense, baiting the Eagles into more turnovers (eight) than points scored (six) in the first quarter. Once Coppell got running in transition, its familiar junior duo of Anthony Black and Ryan Agarwal responded with 14 of the team’s 20 first-quarter points.

The two combined for 46 points in the win, including a 26-point eruption for Black, whose well-rounded skill set was on full display Saturday. The two-sport star punished Allen at the rim, including a pair of highlight-reel dunks that had the home crowd buzzing, to go along with baskets scored off the dribble, out of post-ups inside or spot-ups along the perimeter. On the other end, Black was active in forcing steals and deterring shots in the paint.

“He’s capable of doing so many different things, whether it’s scoring, getting teammates open, rebounding, playing defense,” Schnell said. “He’s a complete player and he played inspired tonight. He took advantage.”

Agarwal added 20 points, including four makes from long range to help stake Coppell to a first half of as many as 17 points.

Schnell anticipated a response from Allen, however, and that came late in the second quarter as the Eagles ramped up their pressure on defense to close the first half on a 9-0 run for a 31-23 deficit at halftime. Senior Mason Gibson keyed the rally with six of his team-high 13 points coming in the second stanza.

“I think we just had to compete a little harder. It’s what we talked about in timeouts — we just weren’t competing at the level we needed to,” said Joe McCullough, Allen head coach. “Why that is, I don’t know. We just didn’t start the game with the level of competitiveness we needed. When we got there, I think we were OK, but it’s just tough to overcome a slow start like that.”

The Eagles closed the gap to as few as six points early in the third quarter on a put-back by sophomore Oluwafemi Olaniyan and had success generating open looks from long range. A cold shooting stretch precluded Allen from trimming its deficit any further, playing the state-ranked Cowboys to a 10-10 stalemate in the third quarter.

Those missed chances proved costly as the Cowboys opened the fourth quarter on a 16-4 run to blow the contest open and swell their lead to 57-37. Coppell again thrived in transition, pinging the ball up the floor for a bevy of clean looks at the rim.

“When they went to their press, I thought we handled it OK but it kind of sped us up and took us out of our rhythm and what we wanted to do,” Schnell said. “At halftime, we talked about playing our game and not letting them change the tempo on us.”

It was a welcome sight for Schnell and his squad, who benefited from a change in venue after Allen and Coppell had originally agreed to play their game last Thursday at Prosper Rock Hill. Inclement weather forced a postponement of the game, as well as a change in location that ultimately wound up resulting in a home game for the Cowboys following a coin flip.

“We couldn’t really find a venue we were both OK with. We actually mentioned it before when we talked about previous spots about just flipping home-and-home,” Schnell said. “I think the thought for coach McCullough and I was that we both play in arenas and our kids are used to that type of environment. It’s kind of a rarity, but it’s nice when it happens.”

The win marked Coppell’s fourth straight year of advancing to the area round of the playoffs. The Cowboys will next play either Lake Highlands or Arlington Lamar, who meet Tuesday, at a time and place to be determined.

Allen, meanwhile, suffered its first bi-district loss since 2016 and finished the season at 13-9 overall, placing fourth in District 5-6A.

“The season, like a lot of things over the last year, was up and down,” McCullough said. “It was hard to find a rhythm where we ever felt comfortable and could string things together. Every team dealt with that, though. I wasn’t able to get us pointed in that upward direction.”