COLLEYVILLE — The Plano girls basketball team knew the South Grand Prairie run was coming at some point.
Head coach Kelly Stallings watched firsthand from the stands as Allen succumbed to that exact pressure in their area-round loss to the Lady Warriors last Saturday — a game that was separated by one point through three quarters only to result in a 61-45 thrashing by SGP.
Fast-forward to Wednesday’s regional quarterfinal, where Plano did as well as it could have hoped to get separation in the first half. But ultimately, the Lady Warriors were going to have their run. And when it materialized, SGP set a pace that the Lady Wildcats couldn’t match.
Despite holding an 11-point lead at halftime, Plano fell victim to a 20-point swing over the final two quarters as SGP ousted the Lady Wildcats from the Class 6A playoffs behind a 60-51 victory from Colleyville Heritage High School.
“They just picked up the level of intensity a little bit,” Stallings said of SGP. “We didn’t keep our spacing quite as well as we did in the first half — a combination of things probably affected that. They just started making shots after not making many in the first half, and that’s the name of the game.”
That shot-making was firmly in favor of Plano through the first two quarters, particularly from the outside. The Lady Wildcats sank seven 3-pointers in the first half alone, which accounted for more than half of the team’s made field goals over that stretch.
Senior Amaya Brannon, sophomore Salese Blow and junior Josie Bruder all drained two triples as part of the barrage, with senior Mikayla Eddins adding another as Plano’s points accrued on 3-pointers (21) matched SGP’s entire first-half scoring output.
Although Wednesday’s game was momentarily halted after a fire alarm sounded late in the late quarter — resulting in a 10-minute delay in action — Plano looked no worse for the wear in outscoring the state-ranked Lady Warriors, 22-14, in the second quarter en route to a 32-21 halftime lead. Even then, Stallings was on her guard.
“We knew they could put up points in a hurry, just like Richardson,” she said. “I told them that they can score 25 points in a quarter. You’ve got to maintain the intensity on defense and be more deliberate on offense. I don’t think we were as deliberate on that end as we were in the first half.”
SGP emerged from halftime with a performance that was night and day from a sluggish first half clad in misses at the rim and ill-timed rotations to counter Plano’s 3-point shooting. The Lady Warriors cleaned up all that and then some — they held the Lady Wildcats without a make from long range in the second half, walled off driving lanes and timed their trapping defense to create eight turnovers over the final two quarters.
Plano momentarily stemmed the tide with a 43-38 lead through three quarters before SGP, just a few days removed from sinking Allen behind an emphatic fourth quarter, dialed up some more pressure to overtake the Lady Wildcats. SGP outgunned Plano in the fourth quarter, 22-8, and got points from all five starters. Kiara Jackson led her team with 23 points and Jahcelyn Hartfield added 13.
The Lady Warriors exuded patience and persistence, not rushing their offense and working for open, high-percentage shots that fueled a 16-4 start to the fourth quarter to put Plano on the defensive for good.
“The fourth quarter looked very similar,” Stallings said, comparing SGP’s fourth-quarter barrage on Wednesday to their performance one round prior against Allen. “From the circumstances you’re dealt, you just have to deal with them. In the end, they were the better team tonight and that’s all on them. They’re a very talented, well-coached team that we competed against.”
Plano’s last hurrah featured 18 points and eight rebounds from Brannon, who played her final game as a Lady Wildcat. Blow capped her first varsity campaign with 10 points and four assists, while Eddins and senior Avery Foltz logged five points apiece in their high school finales.
That group was instrumental in steering Plano to a 19-6 season plus a second-place finish in District 6-6A. Wednesday’s game marked the eighth time in the past nine seasons that Plano has advanced to at least the third round of the UIL playoffs.
“We accomplished a lot this season. When that fire alarm went off in the first half, I’m just thinking about how here’s another thing we have to deal with,” Stallings said. “It’s been a season of overcoming obstacles, and the girls stuck together to do overcome them and that speaks to their character.
“Basketball is a great teacher for fighting through life’s obstacles, and overall I’m very proud of them for the season they had and what they accomplished.”
Lady Panthers headed to regional semis
The dream season continued for the Plano East girls on Wednesday. Playing in their first regional quarterfinal in 20 years, the Lady Panthers added to their banner campaign by rolling through state-ranked Arlington Martin, 50-40, from Skyline High School.
The Lady Panthers were in control from the start, scoring more points in the first quarter (18) than the Lady Warriors did in the entire first half (16). East built a 32-16 lead by halftime on the strength of its defense and kept Martin at an arm’s reach the rest of the way — even swelling the lead to 45-27 through three quarters.
Juniors Donavia Hall and Tiana Amos paced East with 18 and 10 points, respectively, as the Lady Panthers officially matched the second-longest playoff run in program history. Only two other times has East played in the regional semifinals — 1993 and 2001.
The Lady Panthers get a chance to rest up for a look at their fourth-round opponent with Southlake Carroll and Keller Timber Creek not scheduled to play until Thursday. East will get the winner of that bout later this week at a time and place to be determined for a chance to fill one half of the dance card in the Region I-6A finals.