Plano West tennis

The Plano West tennis team captured the Class 6A state championship on Friday, defeating Lake Travis 10-3 at Texas A&M University.

As the book closes on 2021, it’s time to look back on the year that was in Plano-area athletics.

This year was clad in noteworthy moments across all sports for Plano ISD, plus Prestonwood Christian and John Paul II, including playoff success and championships won at the district and state levels.

The Plano Star Courier sports staff has compiled its top 10 sports stories of the year, concluding with the second half of that lineup.

5. Plano represented in Olympics

For the first time ever, karate was represented at the Olympics this past summer. And the inaugural U.S. Olympic karate team was chalked in representation from Plano.

Tom Scott and Brian Irr, who are both teammates and instructors at the Academy of Classical Karate in Plano, were part of a four-man team that represented the U.S. in karate. Scott and Irr both competed in kumite (fighting) and were accompanied to Tokyo by USA Karate head coach Brody Burns, who owns the aforementioned Plano dojo.

It was a surreal experience for both Scott and Irr — a duo that had been linked since their days as childhood rivals. The two often competed against each other as teenagers before gravitating to different weight classes as they got older.

Through it all, the two forged a longtime friendship that led to both realizing a longstanding dream of competing in the Olympics.

4. Morgan calls it a career

After 15 years, 12 winning seasons, 10 playoff appearances, four district titles and one state championship, longtime Plano West head boys basketball coach Anthony Morgan decided to retire following the 2020-21 season.

Morgan coached for 33 years, including 25 at the varsity level. Over that span, he accrued 536 wins to 246 losses and posted a record of .500 or better all but two years. The bulk of that success came at West, one of only two head-coaching positions that Morgan held throughout his career.

Morgan helped guide West to its first-ever state championship in boys basketball in 2015, coaching a talent-rich ensemble that included alums Tyler Davis, DJ Hogg, Mickey Mitchell and Soso Jamabo to a 33-2 record. That included a dramatic 56-54 victory over Houston Clear Lake in the 6A title game — a win capped by a buzzer-beating jumper by Hogg.

Morgan’s success in Plano made waves back in El Paso, where he first got his start in coaching. A standout athlete and coach at Parkland High School, Morgan was inducted into the El Paso Athletics Hall of Fame in 2016.

3. McCullough retires

Although the 2021 football season was ultimately a challenging year for Plano ISD with all three senior high schools missing the playoffs for the second time in three years, it wasn’t without a significant parting note in mid-December.

After eight seasons leading Plano East, head coach and campus athletic director Joey McCullough retired from PISD. McCullough had coached the Panthers since 2014 and had worked in the school district since 1993. He prefaced his tenure at East with a lengthy run as an assistant at West under Mike Hughes.

McCullough coached the Panthers to three playoff appearances over a four-year span during his time with the program (2015, 2016, 2018). East is coming off a 2-8 season that included a 1-6 run in District 6-6A.

McCullough’s retirement marks the third time in less than three years that a PISD varsity head football coaching spot has come open. In February 2019, Tyler Soukup was hired to take over at West, and Todd Ford officially took the reins at Plano in March 2020.

2. Lady Panthers’ dream season

It was a year to remember for the Plano East girls basketball team, which matched the deepest playoff run in program history following a trip to the regional finals.

Last appearing in that round in 1993, the Lady Panthers posted a 20-4 record on the season, including a 14-0 run through 6-6A for the program’s first district championship since 2008. East went nearly three full months in between losses during an 18-game winning streak.

The Lady Panthers had continuity in their favor, returning their entire starting lineup from the 2019-20 season and that uptick in chemistry paid off. Senior Donavia Hall was named 6-6A MVP and junior Idara Udo locked down defensive player of the year honors.

The Lady Panthers have aspirations of going even further this season, despite significant change within the program during the offseason. In June, head coach Jessica Linson announced that she was departing East to take the same role at South Oak Cliff.

Later that month, Plano ISD hired Derrick Richardson, a longtime assistant with the East and West boys basketball teams, to take over the Lady Panthers.

1. West tennis back on top

For decades, the Plano ISD athletics standard in both consistency and excellence has resided on the tennis courts at Plano West. The Wolves are among the most decorated tennis programs in the state, entering the 2021 season in pursuit of an 18th state tournament appearance and a sixth state championship.

West checked both boxes in late October, culminating in a 10-3 victory over Lake Travis to hoist their first Class 6A state title since 2016.

The Wolves amassed a 20-1 record on the season, avenging their lone defeat to Allen along the way. West spent the entire fall ranked No. 1 in 6A by the Texas Tennis Coaches Association and performed up to that level — they outscored their seven playoff opponents 73-8 and conquered a postseason slate that included five matches against teams ranked in the state’s top 11.

Along the way, longtime head coach Morgen Walker notched a career milestone by winning the 500th match of his coaching career on Sept. 28 against Hebron. There was plenty more history to be made by season’s end.

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

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