PLANO – Two weeks ago, Plano junior forward Robert Hall was blocking shots for the Wildcats’ boys’ junior varsity basketball team.
On Saturday, Hall ensured that the season for Plano’s varsity squad didn’t come to an end on its home court. He blocked a layup attempt by Coppell junior Anthony Black with 10 seconds left in overtime and the Wildcats ran out the final seconds of the game clock in a 57-53 victory inside Plano Senior High Activity Center.
The game had major implications for both teams. The Wildcats (10-14, 7-7), needed a win to earn a play-in game with Hebron (13-11, 7-7) to determine the final playoff spot in District 6-6A. Coppell (18-3, 12-2), ranked No. 22 in the latest Texas Association of Basketball Coaches state poll, would have won the district title with a win.
Plano gets to live to play another day. The Wildcats' play-in game is tentatively scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday at The Colony.
Coppell clinched a share of the district title with Marcus (19-6, 12-2) -- third straight season of at least a share of the conference title -- and will face Allen (13-8, 5-6) in a Class 6A Region 1 bi-district game, set for 7 p.m. Thursday at Prosper Rock Hill.
Plano head coach Dean Christian called Saturday’s game a great character win for his Wildcats. His squad was 24 hours removed from a 65-43 loss to Marcus. Behind the play of Hall, juniors Makhi Dorsey and Xavier Williams, plus senior Jackson Hamilton, Plano gets to live to play another day.
“Coming into this game, the guys had to show all kinds of resilience,” Christian said. “They had to show faith. They had to show toughness. To come back from all of that and then the magnitude of this game was so big that just to see them pull it together against the No. 1 team in our district, who is an outstanding basketball team, it speaks volumes about them.”
As for Coppell, the Cowboys were playing their third game in less than 24 hours.
Coppell handled Plano West, 58-42, Friday night in the team’s first game since returning from quarantine. The Cowboys won a 52-30 rout of Flower Mound on Saturday morning. But, Coppell still had one more game to play Saturday as the result of postponements due to COVID-19.
Early on against Plano, Coppell showed no signs of fatigue. The Cowboys raced out to a 15-6 first-quarter lead behind eight quick points from junior Ryan Agarwal. He capped off the spurt with a fast-break layup with 1:12 left.
Agarwal finished with 15 points, while Black had 11. Junior Nazir Brown led all scorers with 24 points.
“My hat goes off to them because they competed like the champions of the district that they are,” Christian said.
Plano’s defense tightened its ball pressure to counter Agarwal’s shooting and offensively found ways for Hall to take advantage of his around-the-basket skills. Hall converted three close-range shots within the first two-and-a-half minutes of the second quarter and later blocked a shot that sprung a fast-break for Dorsey to give the Wildcats an 18-15 lead.
“I’m so proud of that young man,” Christian said of Hall. “For him to be performing two weeks after being on the JV, you’ve got to tip your hat to that young man. He just keeps getting better every day. He’s working hard and is a humble kid. He played his butt off tonight.”
Brown also had the hot hand. The Coppell junior got hot from the field, scoring10 points in the final 3:18 of the first half – highlighted by a 3-pointer and subsequent free throw after getting fouled for a four-point play. But, Dorsey answered with a jumper and a layup to force a 27-27 halftime tie.
Dorsey scored 16 points to pace a balanced offensive attack for the Wildcats, followed by 13 from Xavier Williams and 12 from Hall.
Coppell was 91 seconds away from an outright district championship. Agarwal converted a put-back to give the Cowboys a 48-44 lead.
But, Plano kept grinding away, getting a jumper by Williams and a put-back by Hall to force overtime.
In the extra session, Hamilton buried a 3-pointer with 3:07 left to put Plano ahead for good.
“It’s just a testament to all of the work hard that they put in,” Christian said. “They didn’t want their season to end.”