Plano Jaden Berry

Plano junior Jaden Berry was named 9-6A's Sixth Woman of the Year last season.

Parity has been a common theme across District 6-6A during the 2020-21 athletics year and that should remain the case Dec. 8 when the conference’s girls basketball schedule tips off.

Since 2017, all eight programs in 6-6A have qualified for the playoffs at least once. The addition of the three Plano ISD schools to an already talented mix of Lewisville ISD and Coppell should lead to plenty of back-and-forth bouts on the hardwood, with several of those teams already making noise early into the preseason.

As the start of the district schedule closes in, here are a few early-season storylines around the 6-6A basketball court. 

 

Reigning and defending

Although last year’s 6-6A champion, Irving MacArthur, has been realigned elsewhere, the district welcomes the top two teams from 9-6A in Plano and Plano East. 

The Lady Wildcats advanced to the regional finals for the second time in three years following a 13-1 blitz through their district and graduated only one senior from the rotation that keyed that five-round postseason run.

Plano has a change at the top, however, promoting assistant Kelly Stallings to take over for Rodney Belcher, who returned to the college ranks to coach at the University of North Texas at Dallas.

Stallings and the Lady Wildcats at last got rolling on Tuesday with a 60-48 win over Lakeview Centennial. Despite working through the usual first-game kinks, Stallings has a deep, experienced cast at her disposal.

Seniors Mikayla Eddins and Amaya Brannon lead the pack, while junior Sanaa Murphy-Sowers will take on big minutes in the backcourt with Maggie Robbins having graduated. Standout newcomers include sophomore Salese Blow, who scored 14 points in her varsity debut.

 

Speaking of experienced…

Plano East came on strong over the second half of district play last season and nearly upset state-ranked Harker Heights in the area round of the playoffs.

The Lady Panthers made their push despite starting a mix of freshmen and sophomores — meaning head coach Jessica Linson has practically her entire rotation back from last year. That includes stalwarts like juniors Donavia Hall, Kayla Cooper, Ada Anamekwe and Tiana Amos, plus sophomores Taylor Haggan and Idara Udo.

For as much continuity as the Lady Panthers have, Linson noted that her players have added to their respective skill sets — putting an early focus on making those skills complement one another.

She also has a new weapon at her disposal, with junior Nevaeh Zavala transferring in from Rowlett. 

“[Zavala is] so versatile and does so many things,” Linson said. “She’s a bigger girl who can shoot the 3 and spread the floor. She’s a great offensive rebounder. She brings versatility. We can put her in at a guard spot or a forward spot.”

 

LISD powers look to contend

Flower Mound and Lewisville took valiant swings at MacArthur last season before ultimately placing second and third, respectively, in 6-6A.

The Lady Jaguars and Lady Farmers should contend for playoff spots once again but are having to work through some key turnover in personnel. Lewisville has reigning 6-6A defensive player of the year Laila Lawrence back to commandeer the paint, although head coach Sally Allsbrook noted that the Texas A&M-Commerce commit is doing more ball-handling this season, and is expected to get junior Deucee Reed back from a knee injury soon to bolster a lineup that returns seniors Haley Allen and KK Blair.

“It really helps when you have seniors that have never missed a practice day one of their freshman year,” Allsbrook said. “Just the leadership and accountability that they hold their teammates to has been so helpful. They’re the ones who are why we’ll be successful and it’s always nice when the kids are coaching each other.”

The Lady Farmers are young elsewhere though, with freshman Aaliyah Scott and sophomore Alyssa Boose shining early as underclassmen.

Flower Mound, meanwhile, is working to solidify its backcourt following the graduations of Makenzie Schott and Kayla Wallace — two guards who accounted for nearly 6.5 assists per game last season. As a team, Flower Mound averaged 53.3 points per game in 2019-20 but have failed to clear 40 points in losses to McKinney, Lake Dallas and Mesquite Horn.

Expect that figure to rise once Flower Mound gets its leading scorer from last year, Madison Cox, on the floor after the 6-foot-3 sophomore wraps up volleyball season.

 

Super scorers pacing Hebron, West

The season’s early, and teams are still working to fortify on-court chemistry and rotations, but Plano West and Hebron haven’t exactly been bashful about where the ball is headed on offense.

The Lady Hawks are 5-0 to begin the season and have received a big boost from senior Demauria Miles, who’s routinely hitting double figures. That includes a 26-point effort against Wylie East, 22 against Frisco Reedy and 18 against Sachse.

The Lady Wolves, meanwhile, have played quality programs like Horn, Frisco Memorial and Mansfield Legacy down to the wire in losses by four points or less. A big reason why has been a promising sophomore campaign from Monica Marsh. 

The guard flashed some promise early on as a freshman before missing most of West’s district schedule. But she returned late and helped key a 65-58 upset of playoff-bound Allen with 32 points and has picked up where she left off this year.

Through five games, Marsh is averaging 21.4 points per game, including a career-high 33 points against Memorial.

For continued news and coverage on the local sports scene, follow Matt Welch on Twitter.

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