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No. 1 Plano East rolls to state with double-digit victory

by | Mar 3, 2024 | Sports

The Plano East Panthers’ are just two wins away from a 40-0 season and a Class 6A State Championship. They will head to San Antonio next Friday to take on Mansfield Lake Ridge in the semifinals with the winner heading to the title game on Saturday. Roosevelt Joubert/Murphy Monitor

FORT WORTH – No. 1 Plano East entered the year with goals of reaching state, and punched their ticket Saturday afternoon.

The Panthers spent the entire season testing itself to get to this point. They faced some of the best opponents in multiple states, went against several different play styles, and ensured they were prepared to beat anyone.

For the first 37 tries, they succeeded. Facing Keller in the 38th game, Plano East led wire-to-wire in an eventual 76-60 victory. It was a monumental performance for the Panthers, earning their first-ever trip to the state tournament.

“We’ve known from the beginning that this was our ceiling, that we could do it,” Matt Wester said. “The surreal feeling is doing this at 38-0, that’s the unbelievable part. We tried to play the toughest schedule we could play.”

Against the Indians, the Panthers dominated inside, with DJ Hall leading the way with 31 points and six rebounds, paired with Jordan Mizell’s 18 points, with seven of those coming from the free throw line attacking the basket.

Hall, who was battling an injured ankle from the previous night’s win over V.R. Eaton, scored the team’s opening eight points of the game and continued in the second half to control the paint. Over the two regional tournament games, he scored 49 points and was 20/31 from the floor.

“His ankle is not right,” Wester said. “In my heart, I was thinking it was going to be the ‘DJ Hall ankle game.’ I thought he was sensational. He played defense, rebounded, finished around the basket, and even moved the ball well like a point guard.”

Despite all of that, Keller hung with Plano East in the first half. While East led throughout, the Indians shot 11/28 from the 3-point range and managed to cut the lead to 37-32 at the break. 

In the second half, Keller deployed a trap-style defense, forcing a few turnovers to cut Plano East’s lead to three points at one point, but that was as close as they got late. The Panthers outscored the Indians 19-9 in the final quarter.

“It has a lot to do with our experience and poise. They handled the pressure well and were ready for any kind of situation. There’s not a lot of things we haven’t seen before.”

With the win, Plano East’s postseason run continues with five wins, and to more to go down in San Antonio. The Panthers have an average margin of victory of 27 points in their playoff games and hope to close the deal with a perfect season.

Plano East will play in the state semifinals in the Alamodome on Friday, March 8, with the championship game scheduled for 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 9. They will kick off the four team event against Mansfield Lake Ridge (32-6) on Friday at 7 p.m. 

From there, the winner will take on the victor of Round Rock Stony Point (37-1) and Beaumont United (34-3) for the Class 6A State Championship. 

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