Plano East head boys basketball coach Matt Wester talks with his players shortly before taking the court Friday against Flower Mound.

Leading up to the start of District 9-6A play, the Plano East boys basketball team expects to see some teams that will be all too willing to pull the trigger from beyond the arc.

That was partly why the Panthers scheduled Friday’s non-district matchup against a Flower Mound team that has traditionally thrived in outside shooting.

East learned that all too well in a 70-55 loss that saw the Jaguars score their first 12 points of the afternoon from long range and sink a total of 10 3-pointers on the Panthers’ home floor.

“One reason we put Flower Mound on our schedule is because they look like a couple of the teams we’ll see,” said Matt Wester, East head coach. “The zones they run are similar to teams in our district and they run in transition and shoot threes like Jesuit. Hopefully, we can learn from this.”

Despite the early Flower Mound barrage, the Panthers managed to whittle their deficit to as few as three points midway through the second quarter and trailed just 27-24 with nearly two minutes left in the half. Strength in numbers was East’s best path to resistance with eight different players scoring in Friday’s first half, including four points from senior Tripp Butts.

Flower Mound’s top-end firepower ultimately proved too much, however, with the Jaguars blowing the contest open behind a 21-0 run that spanned the second and third quarters. In eight minutes of game time, East’s 27-24 deficit turned into a 48-24 sinkhole that was finally halted with 2:15 left in the third stanza following a 3-pointer from senior Latrell Goodwin.

“It’s a game of runs and it always has been. When they come down and make shots like they were … we just have to not give in to it,” Wester said. “When we get frustrated on defense because they’re hitting shots, we can’t let it carry over and affect our offense. When there’s a run, you need to slow things down and look for a great shot and we just didn’t do that.”

Plenty of Flower Mound’s offense was generated from the perimeter, with guards Jack Richter and Gavin Green combining for nine of the Jaguars’ 10 made 3-pointers. Richter’s game-high 18 points all came from beyond the arc, with Green and Air Force commit Jeffrey Mills chipping in 13 points apiece.

Mills added three steals and was central to Flower Mound’s stingy defensive effort over the first three quarters, during which East mustered only 32 points. 

Only 19 of the Panthers’ points came from their starting five, with Goodwin leading the reserves with a team-best 15 points. Senior Mikey Malone added nine points in relief as well.

“Until we have five guys who step up and really take ownership, there are going to be a lot of bench minutes,” Wester said.

One name Wester hopes is able to carve out a steady offensive role is senior Evan Williams — an all-district selection from last season whose senior year has already been limited by missing 12 games due to mononucleosis. Playing his first meaningful minutes since returning, Williams scored four points on Friday — both baskets coming on dunks.

“I’m looking for him to get in shape. It’s going to be a big adjustment for him, going from a role where we didn’t ask a lot out of them on offense to now having to score a bit more,” Wester said. “That’s a big adjustment and he had to miss 12 games, so it’ll be a process.”

Wester and the Panthers have a chance to further fortify their identity Thursday-Saturday when they compete in the Allen In-N-Out Burger Holiday Invitational in the final hurdle toward their district opener, which takes place Jan. 3 against state-ranked Allen.

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

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