In the area round of the Class 3A playoffs, senior Allea Harris exemplified the necessary poise and patience her team needed to help move the Argyle Lady Eagles past the area round for the first time in her four years as they defeated the Wilmer-Hutchins Lady Eagles 55-41 at Mansfield High School on Friday night.
Harris seized the moment as Argyle’ primary scorer, headlining the offense with 16 of her game-high 22 points in the tide-turning second quarter with a shooting array and an unwavering presence at the free-throw line throughout the game.
While Harris provided the offensive spark for Argyle (28-6), Wilmer-Hutchins played an aggressive defense throughout that forced the game into a chaotic pace, leading Argyle to a multitude of turnovers while putting itself in an unfamiliar position of moving the ball up the court.
Down 26 points after three quarters, Wilmer-Hutchins outscored Argyle 25-13 in the final quarter as it pulled out all the tricks to save its season.
“For six minutes nobody showed poise, and it got scary out there,” Argyle head coach Skip Townsend said. “It doesn’t matter what the score is, when you get into the last quarter the teams that want it the most go after it. They have a lot of seniors on that team and they wanted the game. They didn’t want to give it to us and they came after us. To be honest, we don’t see a pressure like that a lot and we bowed down to it a little bit.”
Argyle was already at a disadvantage when it lost its defensive star Kim Strelke to a knee injury midway through the district schedule. Strelke was the steadying force as the Lady Eagles’ primary out-of-bounds passer.
“She [Kim] was part of our ballhandling trio,” Townsend said. “We had to move Morgan [McInaney] in there and she did a good job tonight, but still, they don’t know each other and we’ve been struggling. We’ve been trying to get it back in sync. Everybody has to know where everybody is at. We are getting there, but we haven’t quite got there. It’s important you know how to throw the ball in and who to throw it to.”
For the level-headed Harris, she kept reminding her team to take a breath and stay in the moment.
“We were struggling,” Harris said. “At times we felt overwhelmed. I just kept telling our team that we were ahead. We were playing like we were behind. We needed to calm down and act like we are ahead. It was hard at first, because they are very athletic team and we definitely didn’t have the upper hand in that.”
Each team opened the game with a focus on creating inside opportunities for their post players, but both teams turned the ball over in the process. Ashli Jones filled Wilmer-Hutchins’ early scoring needs with five points in the first quarter, including the tiebreaking shot to for an the early 8-6 lead.
With Argyle expanding its offense with more outside looks, Morgan McInaney received an inbounds pass with 15 seconds left in the first, gave a slight shot fake, dribbled, took a few steps to her right and drained a 3-pointer to give Argyle the 9-8 lead to finished the quarter with the lead.
McInaney’s 3-pointer was just the start for Argyle’s outside shooting as Harris gave the Lady Eagles momentum with a six-point burst early in the second quarter, capping a 9-0 run that forced Wilmer-Hutchins head coach Dwayne Creggett into a timeout.
“I mean, I saw the score,” Harris said. “We needed to pick it up and we are better than that. We were shooting really well in the warm-up, so I decided to shoot it and I was feeling it. So I kept shooting because you have to do that when you’re hot.”
Wilmer-Hutchins began revving up its defensive pressure, forcing Argyle into a few turnovers on post looks and cross-court passes. However, Harris continued her scorching-hot second quarter with 10 more points on a variety of moves including a 3-pointer that was a product of crisp, patient Argyle passing to give the Lady Eagles a 21-13 lead. After Harris’ slashing layup made it 23-14, she finished off her slick second-half performance with a straight-away 3 to give Argyle a 26-14 lead heading into halftime.
“Jesse [Sheridan] made some good drives in there for some shots,” Townsend said. “We made some good passes in to Delaney, and Allea hit about three 3s right there that separated us. I thought it was a good team effort on offense. We ran some plays like they were supposed to be run and we didn’t let them push us out of our offense. When we do that, we can score some points.”
With Argyle settling into the game defensively by allowing only six second-quarter points, the defense took center stage as it coerced Wilmer-Hutchins into several, out-of-control shots while playing a staunch defensive game down low. That helped Argyle to extend its lead to 42-16 heading into the fourth quarter.
With Wilmer-Hutchins taking gambles defensively to get back in the game, Delaney Sain was the benefactor, racking up 17 points as Argyle’s main post threat at the end of Wilmer-Hutchins’ press. Jesse Sheridan added 10 points for Argyle.
Krum, which defeated Princeton 70-53 on Friday, will face Argyle in the next round. Townsend said his team is in for a difficult matchup.
“It doesn’t matter what we’ve done, it’s about what’s ahead of us,” Townsend said. “They are going to be the highest-ranked 3A team that we play this year, so it’s going to be a tough ballgame for us to win.”
PATRICK HAYSLIP can be reached at 940-566-6873. His e-mail address is email@example.com.
Argyle 55, Wilmer-Hutchins 41
Wilmer-Hutchins 8 6 2 25 — 41
Argyle 9 17 16 13 — 55
Argyle (28-6) — Allea Harris 22, Delaney Sain 17, Jesse Sheridan 10, Morgan McInaney 3, Olivia Gray 2, Bailey Eschle 1.
Wilmer-Hutchins — Vatoria Peterson 13, Brianna Perry 7, Ashli Jones 7, Keyarria Williams 6, Haily Gibson 4, Keia Peterson 4.