DALLAS — For the first time in 20 years, the Plano East girls basketball team is headed to the regional quarterfinals.
A familiar blend of defense and rebounding once again led the way for the Lady Panthers, who smothered Irving MacArthur for a 64-44 victory at Hillcrest in the area round of the Class 6A playoffs. Both teams entered Saturday’s ballgame with just three losses apiece on the season, only for East to extend its winning streak to 16 in a row.
“It just shows how good these kids are and how resilient they are,” said Jessica Linson, East head coach. “They opened their hearts to me and trusted in our vision, and that just shows how special this group is.”
The Lady Panthers held MacArthur to its lowest scoring output since a Nov. 13 loss to Mesquite Horn (41-33) and surrendered no more than 12 points in any quarter on Saturday. With practice time at a minimum since East’s bi-district win over Prosper on Feb. 11 due to inclement weather, Linson relied on defense to set the tone and create some high-percentage looks at the basket — something East capitalized on early with a 21-11 lead through one frame.
“We pressed and were able to get some easy layups,” Linson said. “After the break, I told them that it was all about getting easy points. Games like this, everybody is going to be out of routine, so we really emphasized rebounds and layups.”
Points in the paint have been central to East’s identity on offense all season, and that held true on Saturday with sophomore Idara Udo overwhelming MacArthur inside with 17 points on the afternoon, including numerous second-chance buckets off offensive rebounds.
“Words can’t even describe her,” Linson said. “She had been struggling a bit because people are sending a lot of double teams at her and she just hasn’t been able to get going. But she took it personal today and imposed her will against their big.”
Juniors Donavia Hall and Tiana Amos chipped in 14 and 11 points, respectively, for the Lady Panthers.
Junior Savannah Adjetey chipped in six points and drew praise from Linson for her defensive work on MacArthur’s Jordyn Newsome, who led all scorers with 21 points. More than half of those came early on, as Newsome accounted for all 11 of her team’s points scored in first quarter. East adjusted its defense and held Newsome to 10 points the rest of the way.
MacArthur had 40 of its 44 points scored between the trio of Newsome, Madison Green (10) and Morgan Browning (9), while East flexed its depth with six players logging at least six points in the win. The result has the Lady Panthers bound for the third round for the first time since 2001, setting up a date with state-ranked Arlington Martin at a time and place to be determined. The Lady Warriors rallied from an 11-point halftime deficit to top Hebron in their second-round matchup, 43-39.
“It looks like it’s going to be a great matchup,” Linson said. “They’ve got a good big, we’ve got a good big, we both have guards who can play. I’m excited about it.”