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Top 10 Plano Sports Stories of 2012: 8. Roar de Force: Prestonwood explodes in fourth for second TAPPS state title
BY Matt Welch, firstname.lastname@example.org
MANSFIELD -- The Prestonwood Christian Academy boys basketball team left no room for doubt as the final buzzer sounded in Saturday's TAPPS 5A State Championship Game.
The Lions swarmed the court for all manner of elation and celebration, resuming their perch atop the TAPPS 5A hoops ranks following a 72-46 demolition of rival John Paul II.
"It's been a lot of fun," said Chris Mayberry, Prestonwood head coach. "There was obviously a lot of pressure to be successful with this kind of talent, but I give credit to the guys. They were very coachable, listened and did a great job."
A 3-pointer by senior Jae Ricketts drew the Cardinals to 48-40 just 30 seconds into the fourth. Seemingly able to answer every Prestonwood run during the three prior quarters, John Paul had no counter for the blitzkrieg that consumed the ensuing six minutes -- a spurt that saw the Lions outscore the Cardinals, 22-6.
"It's happened to us before," said Chad Evans, John Paul head coach. "The bottom line is when we got down by double digits, we had to start trying to get some drive-and-kicks and when you shoot threes, it's a long rebound and a great chance for [Prestonwood] to get out.
"We know that, but you have to take a chance."
An and-1 conversion by junior Julius Randle got the ball rolling with 7:15 left. The forward followed up with a put-back dunk four minutes later and found himself on the receiving end of an alley-oop from senior Zach Peters to extend the Lions' cushion to 66-46.
"We had such a big height advantage and size inside," Randle said. "That's when we were able to increase our lead is when we used those mismatches and didn't hang out so much on the perimeter."
Prestonwood Senior Claude Person chipped in six points during the run, while freshman Mickey Mitchell added an emphatic dunk with 1:50 left that preceded a Peters' fade-away to put the finishing touches on a 24-point fourth quarter.
"We were wearing them down the whole game," Peters said. "We weren't able to get in transition at all in the beginning, but at the end we took our athleticism to another level and took over on the fast break."
Randle led the charge with a game-high 26 points along with 11 rebounds and five assists while Peters posted 16 points and five boards in his Prestonwood finale.
John Paul's counter came in the form of Ricketts, who accounted for seven of the Cardinals' nine fourth-quarter points to total a team-high 12 points on the night. Ricketts was followed by 11 points from junior Chandler Malone and 10 from junior Jason Martin. The Cardinals' efforts proved fortuitous for three quarters as the team kept the Lions honest on defense with six makes from long range and just eight turnovers.
Yet the closest the Cardinals could get was a 10-6 rally to close out the first quarter following a reverse layup by senior Jim Bauer to trim Prestonwood's lead to 12-10.
Despite limiting Randle to just two makes from the field in the first half and forcing Mitchell into early foul trouble, the Cardinals failed to account for Person. He jolted the Lions offense behind 11 points in the second quarter, including a trio of long-range makes to pace his 17 points on the night.
"[Person] hit a game-winning three to beat (Houston) Westbury earlier this year," Mayberry said. "He's been clutch with those baskets all year and Claude just kept making plays tonight, so we kept going to him."
Randle and Peters played off Person's perimeter prowess. The latter converted an and-1 and the former knocked down a pair of free throws to cinch a 31-23 halftime lead.
The Cardinals whittled that deficit down to 37-32 following a 3-pointer by senior Chris Bassett. Prestonwood countered with an 11-5 run to close out the quarter -- highlighted by a thunderous alley-oop from Person to Mitchell to pace the 48-37 margin the Lions carried into what proved to be their most dominant quarter of the evening.
That allowed the Lions (28-3) to capture their second state title in three years with Randle, Peters and junior Marquan Botley donning spots on the all-tournament team.
The Cardinals (24-10) made plenty of strides of their own, advancing to the state finals for the first time with Ricketts, Malone and Bassett netting all-tournament honors.
"I asked the kids, 'how many of you came to John Paul and thought you'd play in the state championship?'" Evans said. "What a tribute to them, their parents and the school community for their support.
"It's the perfect combination to have the success that we've had."
Top 10 Plano Sports Stories of 2012: 9. Collins Card: Klein gets clutch hits, stops to eliminate East in state semis, 6-3
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