PLANO EAST GBB

Plano East sophomore Donavia Hall and the Lady Panthers seek a 2-0 start to district play on Friday at Prosper.

After a week off in between games, 9-6A girls basketball resumes district play on Friday in just the second night of conference action.

Last week’s opening series of bouts provided some compelling results, from Allen and McKinney picking up wins over a pair of 2018-19 playoff teams in Plano Senior and Prosper, while Plano East recorded the most lopsided win of first-year head coach Jessica Linson’s tenure with the program in a 64-33 blowout of McKinney Boyd.

“They played the first half with some nerves but really settled down in the second half and got back to playing how we play,” Linson said. “… Defensively, we turned it up and caused some turnovers. [Boyd] likes to run a pick-and-roll action and we did a good job not letting them get into that and we started getting some quick and easy transition buckets.”

Nearly doubling up the Lady Broncos, East received points from 10 different Lady Panthers, including double-digit scoring night from freshman Taylor Haggan (12) and sophomores Donavia Hall (10) and Tiana Amos (10).

The idea of underclassmen leading East in scoring has been a constant all season, with Linson’s night-to-night rotation comprised mostly of freshmen and sophomores — a unique dynamic for any high school team, but one the Lady Panther bench boss relishes.

“It’s fun because you have a long time to grow with them and implement your culture with them,” Linson said. “It’s also fun to see their progress. You know where you started in October and you can see where their growth is … just seeing them evolve and gaining confidence and leadership.”

One thing East hopes to accrue during that growing period is big-game experience — something its opponent Friday brings in droves. The Lady Panthers will visit a Prosper group anxious for its first 9-6A win after stumbling against McKinney last week, 54-44, looking to conjure the momentum that willed the program to a regional finals appearance last season.

Getting there will be easier said than done with McDonald’s All-American Jordyn Oliver now in college, but the Lady Eagles have picked up some encouraging results thus far, including a win over state-ranked The Colony.

“They’re still dangerous. They have a winner’s mentality after going far in the playoffs,” Linson said. “Even without Jordyn, they have still kids with experience who know how to win and that’s something you can’t buy.” 

Key for Linson’s squad will be limiting the damage from Prosper sharpshooter Maddie Cleary, a North Texas commit who scored 21 points against McKinney.

Just like the Lady Eagles, Plano West and Plano Senior will be looking for their first district victories on Friday in their first head-to-head meeting of the season. The Lady Wolves were on bye last Friday and will play their first game in routing Celina, 59-33, on Dec. 10.

West will try to deal Plano its first back-to-back district losses since December 2015, with the Lady Wildcats seeking a bounce-back effort following just their second loss of the season in a 46-38 setback to Allen. The loss was just the team’s second of the season, doubling as their lowest-scoring outing of the season.

“We play hard. We just have to make better decisions in critical situations and convert our layups,” said Rodney Belcher, Plano head coach. “When we draw double teams, we have to find our open shooters when the chance is there. In a district like ours, those chances are going to be few and we have to take advantage when they’re there.”

The Lady Wildcats have kept their heads above water despite losing star senior Jordyn Merritt for the season due to an ACL injury, going 8-2 in her absence, and they seek a better showing Friday against a West club that snapped a four-game losing streak with its win over Celina.

Freshman Monica Marsh has paced West in scoring this season at 10.7 points per game but will have her work cut out Friday against the stingy defense of Plano senior Maggie Robbins, who still racked up four steals in the loss to Allen.

West-Plano takes place at 5 p.m. Friday with East-Prosper tipping off at 7:30 p.m. later that night. 

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