DUNCANVILLE – Even without superstar senior Jordyn Merritt, the Plano Senior girls basketball team still boasts plenty of size and skill.
That was on full display Thursday against McEachern (Ga.) in both squads’ opening tilts of the 2019 Sandra Meadows Classic, a 54-49 victory for Plano that saw the Lady Wildcats lead by as many as 15.
McEachern’s Daelyn Craig led all scorers with 15 points. Plano was led by Amaya Brannon’s 12 and Sanaa Murphy-Showers’ eight. Three Lady Wildcats added six each in Avery Foltz, Allysa Pendley, and Josie Bruder.
A flurry of Plano fouls in the fourth quarter let McEachern cut into the lead from the free-throw line, at one point pulling to within four points with less than a minute to play. But Plano made its free throws and escaped with a win that head coach Rodney Belcher had to sweat out.
“We had five days off before this, so I’m proud of the way we came out and responded to their run at the end of the game,” Belcher said. “We did what we had to do against a pretty athletic team.”
On offense, McEachern struggled against Plano’s length, especially when Belcher employed a 1-1-3 and 2-3 zone – effectively sealing off the middle for any drives and forcing the Lady Indians to shoot 3-pointers.
McEachern obliged, launching at will and finishing the game with six made from 3-point range.
But Plano’s key to victory lied in its ability to shut down McEachern’s do-it-all point guard, Denim DeShields.
Despite finishing with 13 points, the Lady Wildcats made life miserable for DeShields, forcing her into multiple turnovers and missed layups thanks to an ever-vigilant zone defense. Belcher also deployed senior Maggie Robbins onto DeShields in a “deny” position – effectively allowing anyone else but DeShields to touch the ball.
“I was happy with the way we played [DeShields],” Belcher said. “We ran a few defenders at her and I thought Maggie, Sanaa, and Jaden [Berry] all did a good job on her. She played the whole game, so we tried to wear her down as much as we could.”
It was a worker-bee performance for Plano in its first game against some of the best teams in the state; it’s an attitude that Belcher says his team has embodied ever since Merritt , a five-star recruit who is committed to Florida, went down with an injury.
“Anytime you lose a player like Jordyn, it’s going to affect your whole team, but our girls just come to play and do what they can every night,” Belcher said. “Jordyn can do so many things well for a basketball team – shoot the 3, play defense, pass, everything. So we have to find ways every night to kind of fill in the blanks, and so far, we’ve done a good job of that.”