ALLEN — Five weeks later, the Plano Senior girls basketball team remembered the first quarter of its Dec. 13 showdown against first-place Allen all too well — an opening frame where the Lady Eagles pounced for a quick 8-0 lead and never looked back.
The Lady Wildcats’ solution for Tuesday’s rematch: Don’t let Allen touch the ball.
Plano slowed the tempo to a snail’s pace, at times shaving minutes off the game clock before so much as attempting a shot and limiting the Lady Eagles to a season-low in points scored in a 37-25 victory that created a first-place tie between the two district rivals atop the 9-6A standings at 6-1.
“We wanted to slow the game down. Last time we played them, we started off in a zone and they probably hit seven of their first 10 shots, and we were uphill struggling the rest of the way,” said Rodney Belcher, Plano head coach. “We were prepared this time. We watched tape and knew what they were going to do, just like they knew what we were going to do. It was all about who had the ball at the end of the game, and it worked out well for us.”
Without a shot clock to dissuade them from doing otherwise, the Lady Wildcats controlled time of possession for the overwhelming majority of Tuesday’s ballgame. The results didn’t exactly overload the highlight reel on either side — the two teams were tied 3-3 after one quarter and Allen scored just eight points in the second half — but the Lady Wildcats at last managed to gain a measure of separation late in the third quarter.
Clinging to a one-point lead after a 3-pointer from Allen senior Tyler Jackson — the Lady Eagles’ only basket of the frame — Plano gave itself a two-score cushion after another lengthy possession resulted in a buzzer-beating, 3-point bank shot by junior Avery Foltz for a 24-20 lead entering the fourth quarter.
The Lady Wildcats let their defense and free-throw shooting take care of the rest. Plano made nothing easy on Allen, limiting second-chance opportunities on the glass and holding the Lady Eagles to just one made field goal in the final stanza — an and-one from junior Zoe Jackson. Although the Lady Wildcats too converted just one shot from the field, they gained distance by going 11-of-13 from the charity stripe in the fourth quarter to pull away.
“These young ladies played with great character and great poise. They made critical rebounds and free throws in clutch situations,” Belcher said. “The free-throw making was the difference in the game. It was big and I think it’ll propel us in the coming games.”
Junior Mikayla Eddins led all scorers with 16 points, including nine in the fourth quarter, alongside six rebounds and two blocks. Fellow junior Amaya Brannon chipped in 11 points for Plano, with nine coming in a back-and-forth second quarter that fueled a 17-17 stalemate at halftime.
Allen’s best moments came in that very frame, trading blows with the Lady Wildcats in a more free-flowing pace of play. Zoe Jackson scored seven of her 10 points during the second stanza, but the guard was one of just three Lady Eagles, alongside Tyler Jackson (eight points) and junior Mackenzie Wurm (seven), to record a basket in Tuesday’s loss.
“They’re fired up and pumped up. Their spirits are up, but we just want to keep getting better everyday,” Belcher said. “We need to make sure we build on what happened tonight,” Belcher said.
The Lady Wildcats look to do so at 7:30 p.m. Friday for a home tilt against rival Plano West. Allen, meanwhile, looks to right the ship that same time in a road game at McKinney.