Boys basketball suffers tough loss in district opener

Haley Samsel, Featured Columnist

The varsity boys basketball team kicked off district play at home on Friday, Jan. 10 in a gut-wrenching overtime loss to Plano East with a final score of 39-42. Senior guard and team captain Broderick Perkins led the Wildcats with 7 points.

Surrounded by a full house and an electric atmosphere, both teams were noticeably nervous in the opening minutes of the game and struggled offensively in the first quarter. Senior center Austin Evans, who was plagued with a fractured ankle earlier in the season, provided the Wildcats with a strong defensive presence in the paint early on. Plano managed to tie the game multiple times during the second quarter but Plano East answered each time, maintaining a lead of two points going into the second half, 17-19.

“I was really proud of the way the kids handled themselves in the first half,” head coach Dean Christian said. “They got off to a slow start, but they recognized their mistakes and stuck to the game plan. We knew East would come out hard, and we had to match that intensity.”

Following a hip-hop inspired halftime performance by the Planoettes, the offense for both teams began to pick up in the third quarter. While senior guard Zach Morrow hit a pair of three-pointers in the quarter, Plano East maintained a lead of 3 points going into the fourth quarter, 28-31. The score remained stagnant for much of the final quarter, as Plano East stalled in attempts to maintain their lead.

“It was really a test of how well we could keep our composure,” captain Perkins said. “There’s the urge to try and do too much at once, but the team really held it together so we could make a run in the final couple of minutes.”

An and-one basket by senior forward Alex James with 2 minutes left brought the Wildcats their first points of the quarter and electrified Plano’s student section. A technical foul was called on Plano East’s coach soon after, swinging the momentum in Plano’s favor. Senior forward Jacques Stephenson played a key role in Plano’s comeback after a relatively quiet game, making a layup and getting to the free throw line as the game neared its end. But it was junior guard Jason Bardgett who capped off the Wildcats’ comeback by hitting a tough basket in the paint with 4 seconds left, tying the game and sending it to overtime.

“I would say this game was a complete team effort,” Perkins said. “Every guy put in his best game of the season so far, especially Jason. We just didn’t have the outcome we wanted.”

As the game entered overtime, Plano’s fouls from earlier in the second half came back to haunt them. Perkins fouled out midway through overtime, leaving the Wildcats without their star ball handler and prone to turnovers in the final minutes. Plano was forced to foul as time dwindled down, getting into the bonus from the outset and sending Plano East to the line. Still, the Wildcats managed to keep themselves in the game until the final seconds and lost by 3 points, 39-42.

“It sucks that it had to come down to a game of free throws,” forward James said. “But at least this game showed people that we’re not the team we were last year. We’ve improved a lot.”

Plano looks to improve their district record to 1-1 at Plano West on Tuesday, Jan. 14. Christian, who joined the team this year after coaching three years at McKinney Boyd, is hopeful that the team will bounce back from the loss.

“Playing in this district always brings challenges,” Christian said. “The most important thing for us as a team is to take each game possession-by-possession and focus on what we do best – battle. If we can do that, we have a shot at a playoff run.”