Seven miles. That is the distance between Prosper and McKinney North. The two teams have been battling for a while now, adapting to each other’s plays and coaching styles.
“We’ve been in the same district now for four years,” Prosper head coach Jonathan Ellis said. “With Coach Craft and I, every game has been close. It’s been a grind-it-out kind of game because he knows what I want to do and I know what he wants to do. We expected it to be that way.”
Seniors Zach Wrightsil and Kyle Jessen have been clutch all season, putting points on the board to get Prosper out of some sticky situations, but they may have done their best work Friday as the state-ranked Eagles earned a 44-41 win over McKinney North at Prosper in District 14-5A play to secure a playoff spot for the fifth consecutive year.
Jessen scored 14 points and Wrightsil added 12 points. Freshman Grant Smith finished with five points and seniors Josh Davis and Taveion White both totaled four points each.
The teams went into half-time tied at 25 but Prosper came out in the third quarter and held McKinney to just three points. The Eagles turned that effort into a 35-28 lead going to the fourth quarter.
“In the third quarter our defense got really good,” Ellis said. “There were some big guys on their team so when we transitioned and didn’t allow them to get in their zone, it helped us take the lead.”
North fought back in the fourth and with two minutes left, the Bulldogs trailed Prosper by two points—a situation Prosper is used to by now.
“We’ve been here before; we’ve had multiple games this year where we’ve been in this situation,” Ellis said. “More than anything, I didn’t want them to get a three-point shot. I was really proud of Zach, he blocked one and at the end. Taveion contested and we didn’t foul, but we made it difficult for them.”
Coming off a big win, the Eagles (24-3, 8-1) still have a lot to play for. The Colony (24-7, 9-2) and rival Little Elm (22-6, 9-0) remain on the schedule in battles that will determine the district championship and playoff seeding.
Ellis attributed Friday’s win to the versatility of the team.
“I think our guys can play so many different styles of basketball,” he said. “That’s what makes us so special—we can play fast; we can play slow; we can play tough. There were some tough calls made against us and the kids just kept playing.”