Plano vs Plano East
Plano senior Makhi Dorsey, right, led all scorers with 17 points on Friday as the Wildcats toppled Plano East on the road, 64-44.
 

Stoic as the Plano boys basketball team was in exiting the court at Plano East on Friday, the joy emanating from the Wildcats' locker room soon after spoke volumes to the significance of the latest clash between the city rivals.

The Wildcats continued their historic 2021-22 campaign, improving to 21-0 after handing the Panthers just their second loss of the season (20-2) -- a decisive 64-44 road win that carried plenty of weight for Plano head coach Dean Christian and his squad.

"It meant a lot not just to the guys but to the community," Christian said. "It's one of the biggest games that has happened in Plano since when my son and Lawrence Mann, John Roberson, Joseph Fulce and Landon Skinner were playing and would lock horns with East. Those were big, big games that brought the community out. I'm just happy that we're doing Plano proud -- both us and Plano East."

The two entered Friday's District 6-6A matchup sporting a combined 40-1 record. It took both some time to find their footing in front of a packed crowd -- the night's first points weren't recorded until 5:18 remained in the first quarter.

But as that feeling-out process dissipated, it was the Wildcats who made the evening's first serious push with an 11-0 run to close out the first half and build a 27-13 lead at the break. East crept to within 16-13 with 4:55 to play in the second quarter after senior Aiden Hayes sank a 3-pointer only for Plano to respond with the final 11 points of the half. The Wildcats picked apart the East defense to open up chances inside for their frontcourt while senior Makhi Dorsey hassled the Panthers around the perimeter.

Dorsey put the finishing touches on Plano's second-quarter surge by burying a 3-pointer from the corner just before the halftime buzzer for the team's largest lead of the night to that point.

"I think it's just an indication of who we are as a team," Christian said. "We're a senior-laden team and in years past, with these same guys, we might not have been able to execute and get a quality last shot like that. They understand the value of ending quarters with momentum and the importance of that last shot."

The Panthers were unable to build off Hayes' triple, held off the scoreboard for the remainder of the half -- a trend that put East at a deficit for the entirety of the first half. The Panthers were held without a made field goal for the first 8:30 of the contest, earning each of their four first-quarter points from the free throw line.

"They just did a much better job on defense than we did on offense. We held the ball, didn't move it and weren't aggressive enough to beat a good team like that," said Matt Wester, East head coach. "They played some great defense. I don't think anyone has held us to 44 points all year. We typically shoot the ball pretty well but just couldn't get those shots up tonight."

The Panthers averaged 64.9 points per game leading into Friday's contest but endured their hardships trying to find openings against an active Plano defense. Christian turned to the quartet of seniors Robert Hall and Rashon Miller, plus juniors Kaden Stuckey and Nicholas Williams, to wall off the rim, while Dorsey and Co. rotated around the outside to deny any easy looks from beyond the arc.

Christian deployed those four forwards as part of a platoon rotation, playing the two seniors together before subbing in the two juniors. No matter the combination, the Wildcats got production down low -- Hall and Miller combined for 10 points, eight rebounds and four blocks, and Stuckey and Williams combined for 13 points, five boards, two steals and two blocks.

"It's a luxury that we have that we haven't in the past. We have four guys who can really turn it on and play at a high level," Christian said. "When you have that kind of continuity, you can be flexible and platoon a bit. Arguably any one of those four guys could start."

The result short-circuited an otherwise explosive East offense -- senior Brandon Hardison finished 10 points to pace the Panthers, but all came in the second half. No other East player finished in double figures.

"We've got a lot of weapons," Wester said. "Brandon is our leading scorer, but if he's not shooting well, we feel like we have enough other guys who are capable of stepping up."

Dorsey, meanwhile, led the Wildcats with 17 points. The reigning 6-6A defensive player of the year added four steals in the win, several of which led to finishes on the other end by Plano's veteran point guard.

Dorsey scored 10 points in the second half and dished out a pair of assists in the third quarter, including a feed to senior Elijah Brown (13 points) in the corner for another buzzer-beating 3-pointer that upped the Wildcats' lead to 45-28.

East crept no closer than 14 points in the second half, despite Hardison finding his footing. Senior Corey Upkins was active around the basket all game, finishing with nine points and two blocks, while Hayes tallied eight points. The Panthers fell to 2-1 in district play following the loss, while Plano improved to 3-0 in 6-6A.

"You look at their starting lineup and it's all seniors. In a game like this, it's going to be won or lost by your seniors," Wester said. "Those are guys who have known each other their whole lives and know each other inside and out. That's a deep, senior-heavy team, and this was a game when their seniors played like seniors."

The Wildcats look to keep their perfect season intact at 7 p.m. Tuesday when they host Flower Mound, while the Panthers will visit three-time defending district champion Coppell at 8 p.m.

For continued news and coverage on the local sports scene, follow Matt Welch on Twitter.

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