ALLEN — The Plano East girls basketball team felt like it let one get away in last month’s down-to-the-wire nail-biter against defending District 9-6A champion Allen. The Lady Panthers didn’t let Tuesday’s second chance go to waste.
Despite another finish chalked in highlight moments from both sides, East scored a measure of revenge after outlasting the Lady Eagles in overtime, 48-45, to draw even for second place in 9-6A at 6-3.
“We felt like we were the better team, even after that first game,” said Jessica Linson, East head coach. “All year, it’s been about our maturity. We’re so young and you could see in this game that we had it and then almost let it go, but these girls keep learning how to finish.”
It meant enduring harsh lessons like East’s Jan. 3 meeting with Allen, where the Lady Eagles scored inside the final 20 seconds for an eventual 35-34 victory. The Lady Panthers almost had to confront those demons once again on Tuesday, nursing a 42-40 lead inside the final minute before Allen junior Zoe Jackson intercepted a pass and scored on the other end with 35 seconds left in the fourth quarter to force overtime.
“That was awesome. We just said to be ready and play the passing lanes. It was a great play,” said Teresa Durham, Allen head coach.
East regrouped to outscore the Lady Eagles, 6-3, in the extra frame — pulling ahead 46-44 with 1:10 left on a pair of free throws by sophomore Donavia Hall. Allen freshman Alexis Cortez split a pair from the line to trim the deficit to one with 22 ticks remaining, and moments later, the team forced a turnover after Jackson jumped a long inbounds pass by the Lady Panthers.
In position to break East’s heart once again, Allen’s opportunity never materialized thanks to some timely defense by sophomore Tiana Amos. The second-year guard stole the the Lady Eagles’ ensuing inbounds pass and finished a layup for a 48-45 advantage with 10 seconds to go.
Allen’s last-second attempt at a tying 3-pointer fell short to secure East’s biggest win of the season.
“That was huge. It was a great read and [Amos is] such a smart kid,” Linson said. “I know she felt bad after having that turnover to Zoe, but I knew she’d find a way to come through and make a play for me. I have complete confidence in those kids showing up.”
Amos finished the night with nine points, three assists and a pair of steals, including a 3-pointer late in the second quarter as part of a 6-0 run to close the first half and seize a 21-18 advantage through two frames. Hall chipped in a team-high 12 points alongside a staggering 15 rebounds, plus four assists and a pair of steals.
“That’s been a point of emphasis for us. When we give up boards, we lose games and [Hall] really took that to heart tonight,” Linson said. “If she wasn’t scoring, she was getting boards for us tonight.”
Those extra shots created on the glass were a sore spot for Durham and the Lady Eagles, who were bested in the offensive rebound battle, 10-4, in the loss.
“The only thing I didn’t think we did a good job with was rebounding. We gave them too many second and third shots,” Durham said. “I thought defensively, we did a good job changing some stuff up and got some tips and deflections early on, but they adjusted well and got to the hole. Our man defense let them have too drives to the middle near the end.”
Allen’s offense also endured a mid-game lull, going the entire second quarter without a made field goal before Jackson sparked the unit to life with its first seven points of the third quarter. She finished with 13 points and five steals and got plenty of help from backcourt mate and senior Tyler Jackson, who pitched in 14 points in the team’s third consecutive setback following a 6-0 start to district play.
“We just talk about staying the course and doing what we do,” Durham said. “Things don’t always go the way you plan, but we’ve got to believe and trust in each other. It just re-emphasizes that every given night you have to come and play in this district. If you don’t, you’re going to get beat.”
Following a Friday bye, Allen looks to right the ship at 7:30 p.m. when it hosts last-place McKinney Boyd. East, meanwhile, looks to build off its fourth straight win in a 7:30 p.m. Friday showdown at home versus first-place, state-ranked Plano Senior.
“It shows that we can be one of the best. I use the analogy, ‘Broken crayons still color.’ Allen has this prestige while East has been a stepsister, but these girls know that they can run this district,” Linson said. “We gave away some games that we shouldn’t have, but a win like tonight is a huge confidence booster going into Friday against Plano.”