Long overdue: Plano defeats Allen for share of first district title in 10 years
Plano Senior girls basketball head coach Lynn Meger had a simple question for her girls as she walked into the locker room following Tuesday night's game against Allen.
"How does it feel to be district champions," she queried.
The Lady Wildcats (9-1 in district) hadn't had that question posed to them since 2002-03, but could answer it Tuesday as a 54-39 victory over Allen (2-8) allowed Plano to split the 10-5A title with Plano West.
"I can barely even explain the feeling right now," Meger said. "These girls were all around when we were [not too good], but they wanted to leave a legacy and they all worked together to achieve something that is real tough, especially in a district like this where we always have West with us."
"It was very important for us to win tonight," added Grace Mitchell, Plano senior. "It shows that teams should be afraid of us too, just like West."
Mitchell was a spark for Plano, though probably not how she anticipated.
Plano clung to a 34-30 lead to start the fourth quarter when Mitchell was called for an intentional foul after elbowing an Allen player. The Lady Eagles converted one free throw, but the Lady Wildcats would score the next 14 points.
"Once we calmed down after that foul, we really did well," Meger said. "These girls have excelled all year at turning negatives into positives."
There was no better example of that than Mitchell.
Entering the quarter with just three rebounds and four points, the senior forward finished with eight rebounds and a game-high 16 points after starting and finishing the 14-0 run with a basket.
"That foul fired me up," Mitchell said. "I wanted to show that wasn't going to shut me down, but I also wanted to take ownership for what happened and make up for it."
Among Mitchell's contributions during the run were four straight free throws after a technical foul on Allen junior Ericka May, who was held relatively in check with eight points and six boards.
"Obviously it was a rough game the whole way and I think that kind of led to things escalating," said Sean Weibling, Allen head coach. "That first foul really seemed to fire Plano up and we weren't able to match that intensity."
Allen junior Anna Horowitz broke Plano's run with a pair of free throws and quickly added to her eventual eight-point night with a steal and layup. But the Lady Eagles, whose playoff hopes ended in Friday's 30-28 loss to McKinney, wouldn't cut their deficit below 10 in an eventual 54-39 defeat.
"Our girls have a no give-up mentality," Weibling said. "So I was confident they would show great fight tonight and they did."
Never was that more evident than in the second quarter.
The game looked like it could be over eight minutes in as Plano built a 15-2 lead with a three-pronged offensive attack from seniors Wilma Afunugo (11 points), Binna Kim (nine) and Haley Wray (eight). Afunugo added nine boards while Wray had a game-high 13 rebounds. The only other player to reach double-digit rebounds was Allen senior Rachel Piles at 10.
"I thought Haley Wray had a heck of a game," Meger said. "She was able to control the tempo, grabbed a ton of rebounds and displayed great senior leadership."
But just as Plano surged in the first quarter, Allen came streaking back in the second with a 13-0 run that included back-to-back 3-pointers from May and sophomore McKenzie Martin, who scored five, to tie the game at 19-19.
"We had a terrible start," Weibling said. "We couldn't hit a shot, but I told the girls they weren't doing anything wrong because they were getting the right shots. I knew if we kept doing that, the shots would start falling and we'd get back in it."
Plano held a 22-19 lead at the break, but the game remained tight with Allen, which was aided by a pair of 3-pointers in the third from sophomore Kayla Bise, holding a brief lead at 24-23. The Lady Wildcats, who got their own pair of trifectas from junior Kylie Guthrie, regained that advantage following a coast-to-coast layup from Wray and broke the game open in the fourth following Mitchell's foul to pick up a 54-39 win and the 10-5A title.
Plano lost the flip with co-district champ West and will be seeded No. 2 when opening the playoffs Monday.
"One of the main things we have to do right now is stay together as a team," Mitchell said. "Continue to do that, go 110 percent in practice and watch film so we can fix all the little things."
"We'll give the girls Wednesday off to enjoy this," Meger added. "Then we need three good days of practice so we're ready to make a run."