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Plano brushes off Mesquite rally, rolls to non-district win



PLANO, TX — Plano’s boys basketball team has endured its share of close games this season, already having played seven contests that were decided by four points or less. For a moment, Monday’s non-district finale against Mesquite appeared to be headed in that exact direction.

A 17-point halftime lead for the Wildcats was whittled down to five points early in the fourth quarter thanks to an aggressive Skeeter defense. Plano’s response was exactly the kind of tone head coach Dean Christian had hoped for as his ball club prepares to resume a grinding District 6-6A campaign — closing on a 19-5 run for a 61-42 victory.

“It means everything. Confidence means so much in this district and you’ve got to have it,” Christian said. “This gives us a little bit, and we’re excited about that.”

The Wildcats averted a second-half collapse thanks to a resounding finish to Monday’s ballgame, with junior Xavier Williams taking over in the fourth quarter to help Plano regain separation. Williams wrestled away a rebound from the Mesquite frontcourt for a put-back that sparked the first of nine consecutive points scored by the guard to swell the Wildcats’ lead to 50-37.

In total, Williams scored or assisted on 11 straight points for Plano, regaining a double-digit lead that it never relinquished.

“He’s finally turning into a go-to guy for us,” Christian said. “I’m just thankful for the break because it seemed like he had made up his mind that he was going to do that for us and that’s what we had been waiting on — for him to be our lead.”

The Wildcats outscored Mesquite, 21-9, in the fourth quarter — slowing the Skeeters down with an aggressive press that contributed to more than 20 turnovers forced in Monday’s win.

We made some easy shots. We were missing a lot of easy shots early in the third which kept us from getting in our press,” Christian said. “That’s what really turned it for us was our press, but you have to be able to make shots to set up that press. We finally made some easy shots and that press disrupted them just enough to get things back in our favor.”

The Skeeters deployed a press of their own, something that paid dividends early in the second half as Mesquite clawed back from a 35-18 halftime deficit. Plano had more turnovers (six) than points (five) in a third quarter that breathed new life into the Skeeters, who rode a bevy of opportunities created in transition to trim the Wildcats’ lead to 42-37 early in the fourth.

“We’ve been working on that press for a couple weeks. We have a hard time scoring in the half court so we’re trying to create some opportunities elsewhere and I thought they did a good job in the third quarter,” said Donald Curts, Mesquite head coach. “Part of that was them missing shots they made earlier, which helps, but I thought our guys were aggressive with the press and rotating around. They finished shots, which is good and something we’re trying to build on for the next game.”

The Skeeters were paced by 16 points from senior Jayrin Wadley, who scored eight of the team’s 10 points in the first quarter. No other Mesquite player logged more than six points — a mark shared by seniors Quaylen Teague and John Benson — while Plano had 10 different players score.

Williams led the charge with 13 points, while sophomore Corey Upkins gave the second unit a lift with 10 points, including seven in a first quarter where Plano led 22-10 through eight minutes. Senior Jackson Hamilton added nine points and junior Makhi Dorsey dished out six assists as the Wildcats improved to 4-9 heading into the Jan. 5 resumption of district play.

Plano hosts Plano East that night at 7 p.m. while Mesquite looks to get back on track in 10-6A action on Saturday against rival North Mesquite.

“The biggest thing is making shots. We have to shoot better,” Curts said. “We got some good ones today but missed some chip shots around the basket. Some of that is conditioning and not playing in a while, but Plano has some long guys in there. We have to finish our opportunities, shoot better and stop allowing so many layups on defense.”