The Upset Heard 'Round the Metroplex: McKinney stuns Richardson
The McKinney Lions weren't favorited going into their matchup with nationally ranked Richardson. It took a team effort and incredible sportsmanship to take down Richardson in a physical battle-to-the-finish that not many saw coming. "The win against Richardson was a result of an entire team coming together and fulfilling their individual roles so the team, as a whole, could secure the victory," said McKinney ISD Athletic Director Jennifer Frazier. VYPEDFW was given the chance to talk with Lions head coach, Wes Watson, about this momentous win for McKinney hoops.
"I think our guys were looking forward to this matchup," started coach Watson when asked how he prepared his athletes for such a high-profile team. "We thought we'd meet up last year, but we didn't handle our part of the bargain. We have a lot of respect for Richardson, their players, coaching staff, and everything about them."
Watson believes that his team was more than prepared to take on Richardson as they have grown to know Richardson's play style. "Even though both teams are in different district, we're both pretty familiar with each other, having played in some of the same tournaments and events." With the stage set, it was game time...
The First Half
"I think both of us felt like it was going to be a highly competitive game and that the winner would have a great chance to win the whole thing," Coach Watson said while acknowledging the fact that he and Richardson head coach Kevin Lawson have respect for one another as well as each others' team. "What's unfortunate is that because the DFW area is so good, this matchup happened in the third round. But this had the feel of a state semifinal or state championship level game."
Having the feel of a state tournament level game is an understatement. The entire atmosphere during the entire game proved to be something special- the fans, players, and coaches were electric from the moment they entered the arena and the tone was set from the very beginning. After controlling the majority of the tempo in the first quarter, McKinney led 18-16 before Richardson went on a run to take a 10-point lead. The second quarter saw much of the same experienced play as McKinney was able to significantly cut Richardson's lead headed into halftime. By this time, many people had already counted McKinney out. "We watched a lot of film on Richardson, but we tried to sell our guys on the idea that this wasn't some David vs. Goliath deal. A lot of people were making it out to be that way because they're so good," Coach Watson told VYPE. "But, we're pretty good, too. Coach Lawson and I have a lot of respect for each other, and believe me, he and his kids knew coming in that we were a really good team."
The Second Half
With Alex Anamekwe, Ja'Kobe Walter, Thatcher McClure and Jackson Steele helping to lead the way, McKinney was able to keep up with Richardson's fast-paced style of play. The Lions' ability to play quick-witted and alert defense gave McKinney an edge in the fourth quarter while Steele's ability to score quickly and often helped the Lions take the lead twice while Walter was benched on a foul. "It was very rewarding to see so many kids on the team make big plays to secure the victory," said McKinney AD Fraizer.
With both teams proving that they are evenly-matched, fans began to realize just how this game was shaping out- that it had the potential to go down as a true classic in Texas high school basketball history. As Walter came back on the court, the intensity of the moment really began to heat up. As the lead went back and forth between the Lions and the Eagles, the atmosphere only became more exhilarating. In the waning seconds of the game, a second ricocheted ball off of the hands of Richardson standout Cason Wallace found it's way to Walter- who was previously blocked after attempting a layup on the first ricochet. Walter hit the ball in the direction of Anamekwe who scored with just over a second left in the game.
"At that point, with so little time left and us having four fouls to give, our win probability was high. However, there's still going to be some anxiety anytime there's still time on the clock," coach Watson said. "We wanted to put some tall people in the front court because we suspected they were going to throw it long. The other thing that went through my mind was Alex showing some emotion after he made the go-ahead basket. He never shows any emotion. It was awesome to see and couldn't have happened to a better kid."
The victory over Richardson advances McKinney to the regional semifinals where they will face off against a tough North Crowley (30-6) squad. If you'd ask coach Watson, it's clear that he has more faith in his team than anyone could possibly have in a team. They are taking it all day-by-day and continuing to prepare for games the way they typically would.
"Wednesday is a recovery day. We watch a little film, have a light weight workout, and get a lot of shots up. Thursday we will take a deeper dive into film and start going through the North Crowley prep on the floor with them. As far as mindset, it's pretty simple. We've got a lot more to play for and at this point you have to earn everything. While beating Richardson was a terrific accomplishment and great for our community, we don't want it to be the best thing that happens to us this year. We know if we can beat a team as good as them then we can beat anyone. We've just got to go out and earn it. Stick to the process."
McKinney is set to face-off against North Crowley at Wilerson-Greines Activity Center in Fort Worth on Friday at 6 p.m.