PLANO, Texas – The key to Flower Mound Marcus’ (26-2, 8-0 District 8-5A) success isn’t always found in the play of star Oklahoma State recruit Marcus Smart.
Marcus always seems to have one player who answers the call and becomes a spark that ignites his team. Tuesday it was guard A.J. Luckey.
Luckey’s rebounding and fast-break efforts in the second quarter gave Marcus the lead back over Plano West, which turned into a 63-42 Marcus rout.
Plano West (20-7, 6-2) took a 12-10 lead after the first quarter of the heated district rivalry, in part from two breakaway layups by Kendall Britton.
Luckey then found his stride in the second, pulling down rebound after rebound which turned into transition points. Through the first three-quarters of the second, Marcus went on a 13-3 run to end the half with a 27-18 lead.
“A.J. Luckey attacking the rim offensively really gets us going,” Marcus coach Danny Henderson said. “He’s been a huge key to the way we’ve been playing lately -- we’ve been playing really well lately and A.J. has been the catalyst.”
Luckey finished with 7 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists.
Henderson’s halftime speech was simple -- put away Plano West as quickly as possible in the third quarter -- and his team responded.
In front of a packed crowd full of rowdy Plano West students, Marcus began the third calm and collected. The onslaught began right away, as guard Phil Forte drained two 3’s just minutes into the frame.
“We attacked the rim and talked about attacking the rim and the kids did.” Henderson said.
Forte was the leading scorer in the game with 19 points, 12 of which came from behind the arc.
The finishing touch came in the third when Nick Banyard threw down a slam in transition, forcing a Plano West timeout. West didn’t look like the same team the remainder of the game and the crowd slowly began to file out of the gym.
Marcus out-rebounded West by a huge 38-12 margin, which allowed Marcus to run the fast break throughout the game.
Play became a little chippy in the fourth, with the emotions bubbling over on a close contact play between Smart and Plano West guard Tim Okpasin.
In an effort to create space, Smart swung the ball across his body with elbows out. His trailing elbow caught Okpasin in the face, which resulted in a swinging retaliation by Okpasin. No contact was made and Okpasin was issued a flagerant foul and was sent to the locker room early.
After watching the game film immediately after the game, Plano West coach Anthony Morgan said he believed Smart should have received a foul as well for the blow to Okpasin’s head.
“You clearly see a rip move and an elbow right in the guys' face and we get popped with the tech," Morgan said. "It’s clear that there’s a hit by Smart and retaliation by our kid that got ejected.”
Smart apologized to Morgan after the game, when both teams had retired to the locker rooms, and Morgan said Okpasin will be talked to this week about the incident.
“It’s just a game and we can’t let it get to this point here,” Morgan said.
Marcus tallied its second win over third-place West, which means Marcus controls its own destiny in route to another district championship and more time to prepare for another playoff run.
“If we keep winning, we’ll finish first and that at least lets us know ahead of time where we’ll be in the playoff bracket and there’s a lot of benefit to that,” Henderson said.
Girls: Plano West 47, Flower Mound Marcus 36
Plano West’s (28-2, 10-0) defensive trap and effort flying into the passing lanes forced turnover after turnover in West’s win.
Flower Mound Marcus (18-12,7-3) was able to keep the game reasonably close until the fourth, when West went on a 6-2 run that was the beginning of West’s end of the game pullaway.
West is undefeated in district after claiming its second win over second-place Marcus and is one win away from clinching a District 8-5A title.