Following the opening tip of overtime during Friday’s District 10-5A opener between the Plano East and Plano Senior boys basketball teams, the Wildcats’ student section belted a chant proclaiming “this is our house.”
As the ensuing four minutes played out, the Panthers were none too cordial a guest, overcoming the Wildcats’ late heroics in regulation for a 42-39 overtime victory and a 1-0 start to district.
“It’s a big win because you know [Plano] will be one of the contenders,” said Jeff Clarkson, East head coach. “Both teams fought hard and there were some big plays made, but a lot of mistakes too.”
The Panthers didn’t endure as much of the latter when it mattered, scoring all seven of their overtime points on free throws.
That might sound like a dangerous proposition for a team that shot just 6-of-16 from the line during regulation, but senior Trey Patterson changed that tune by knocking down 4-of-6 attempts in overtime. Senior Zach Smith following suit with consecutive makes from the line for a 41-37 lead with 1:03 to play.
Although the Wildcats pulled within one possession on a reverse layup by sophomore Brandon Headroe, one made free throw senior Issac Asrat with 10 seconds to go left the Wildcats scrambling for a last-second heave that failed to draw iron as the Panthers held on for the win.
“You just want to come together as a team at the end,” Patterson said. “Listen to coach, don’t commit stupid fouls or take stupid shots. Just work within the system and don’t get thrown off by the crowd.”
While East’s senior leaders rose to the occasion from the line, the Panthers’ entire quintet made life miserable for Plano on the other end of the floor.
The Wildcats committed as many turnovers as they scored points (four) in overtime, a microcosm of Plano’s evening, as 22 total turnovers dashed any hopes of a joyous start to district.
“We didn’t play very well,” said Dean Christian, East head coach. “Plano East came in and played a great game and they were clearly more prepared. We played hard, but just not very smart.”
Despite the turnovers plaguing the Wildcats during the fourth quarter as well, they still managed to force overtime after erasing a 35-30 deficit with 90 seconds to play. A layup by senior Jacques Stephenson pulled Plano within one possession and with five seconds to play, senior Jason Bardgett sunk a turnaround hook for the 35-35 tie.
“I’m proud of the effort,” Christian said. “We’ve just got to play smarter.”
Plano wouldn’t so much as draw another tie with East during overtime and never led during Friday’s matchup.
Sparked early on by junior Malachi Davidson, who chipped in 10 points and two steals off the bench, the Panthers jumped out to a 12-8 lead after one quarter.
Senior Broderick Perkins helped will the Wildcats back to a pair of ties and within one possession by halftime (19-17) before the East defense took charge for much of the second half.
Patterson, who led East with 16 points and two steals, helped hold Perkins scoreless in the second half while the Panthers didn’t allow a double-digit scorer on the night. Senior Zach Morrow and Perkins each led the Wildcats with seven points.
“More than anything, I was really proud of our defense,” Clarkson said. “Our guys were working so hard and just executing everything we’ve worked on from the beginning.”
Smith terrorized the Wildcats down low, blocking two shots to go along with seven points and nine rebounds, and altered countless others at the rim.
He also overcame a night where he made just one shot from the field to knock down two crucial free throws that helped make the difference in another 1-0 start to district on Plano’s home court.
The Panthers look to build on Friday’s win at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at McKinney Boyd, while the Wildcats travel to Plano West at the same time.