Dynamic duo: Pullum, Joseph carry Lobos past Allen
LITTLE ELM -- Senior guard Biron Joseph wasn't expected to make his season debut with Little Elm until Friday.
That changed after head coach Rusty Segler was informed midway through the first quarter of Tuesday's game against Allen that Joseph was eligible to play following a 15-day waiting period since his return from Quest Academy in Las Vegas.
"We just had a total mix-up with when he would be back," Segler said. "I didn't find out until the first quarter that he was available."
After leading the team in scoring last season, Joseph's return provided Little Elm with the spark it needed to hand Class 5A Allen a 66-61 road loss.
"They made shots down the stretch and we ended up with four guys fouling out," said Jeff McCullough, Allen head coach. "We didn't have a lot of depth as it is."
The win came after a quick Allen start that saw the Eagles take a 21-11 lead late in the first quarter behind the play of junior forward Jamuni McNease. McNease poured in nine of his 14 points in the quarter to match Little Elm senior guard Devante' Pullum point-for-point.
"I told my guys that [Allen] came out and played harder than we did," Segler said. "I think they took it as a challenge and stepped up their intensity after that."
A 7-1 Little Elm run to end the frame made it a 22-18 contest entering the second quarter. The Lobos later pulled within two points on the opening possession of the quarter before Allen went on a 17-6 run to close the half for a 39-26 advantage at the break.
"[Pullum] said to me at halftime 'we're not going to lose this game,'" Segler said.
The two teams went back and forth in the third with the Lobos making it a 39-33 contest after a Pullum layup with 5:04 remaining in the quarter.
The Eagles were able to maintain their lead though and pushed the advantage back up to 11 points before a bucket from Little Elm senior forward Shaun Grant with 21 seconds on the clock made it a 48-39 affair heading into the final stanza.
Pullum and Joseph then took over in the final eight minutes, scoring a combined 20 points in the quarter to fuel a Lobos comeback.
The quarter began with a quick corner three from Joseph that brought Little Elm within two possessions. Pullum followed Joseph's triple with a three of his own to make it 48-44 with 6:56 remaining in regulation.
The Lobos finally trimmed the deficit to one score following a putback dunk from Grant on Little Elm's ensuing possession. The senior became one of three Lobos in double figures after chipping in 10 points.
Pullum led all players with 24 points while Joseph scored all 18 of his points over the final three quarters.
Allen was led by sophomore guard Olin Carter, who scored 16 points to become one of four Eagles in double figures. McNease added 14 from the center position before fouling out in the fourth quarter.
Little Elm's comeback was complete at the 4:58 mark of the quarter when Joseph scored on a breakaway dunk to make it 51-51.
Allen would recapture the lead moments later after a pair of free throws made it a 58-56 contest with 2:30 left in the game. The small advantage would be the final one of the night for the Eagles though.
"It's tough to execute down the stretch when you don't have all of your guys out there," McCullough said.
Late turnovers would keep Allen from posing a real threat down the stretch. Meanwhile, clutch free throws from Pullum and Grant eventually iced the victory for Little Elm.
"[Pullum] just willed us to a win," Segler said. "He had ice in his veins on those free throws."
With Pullum going 6-6 at the line in the fourth, the Lobos shot 10-18 from the charity stripe as a team. The Eagles fared better after making 13-of-19 attempts.
Pullum's final free throws gave Little Elm a 66-58 advantage with just 16 seconds left in regulation before sophomore guard Olin Carter added a last-second three for a 66-61 final.
"It goes back to not having your guys out there," McCullough said. "We've got some help coming soon though."
The Lobos improved to 9-4 on the season with the victory with a key Friday showdown against Rowlett next in line.
"That's going to be a fun one," Segler said.
The two teams will tip off the action in Rowlett with a 1:30 p.m. start time.
Allen will have a chance to rebound the same day with a 7:30 p.m. home game against Lake Highlands.