Connect with us


Strength in numbers: Plano West depth too much for Plano East in 6-6A opener



PLANO, TX – The Plano West boys basketball team got contributions up and down the rotation in Tuesday’s District 6-6A opener against Plano East.

Nine different Wolves scored at least one basket and eight recorded at least one steal as part of a balanced 77-65 road win over the Panthers to kick off the season’s conference schedule.

“This was a good team win tonight. We’re just trying to get everybody involved,” said Anthony Morgan, West head coach. “I think we’re so even across the board that we’re just trying to develop that chemistry and consistency. Without too many returners, it’s important to try and get as much time in as we can, especially with no tournaments.”

It’s a sign of things to come for the Wolves, who graduated a wealth of production from last season and had their leading scorer, all-district pick Chase Ross, transfer to Cushing Academy in Massachusetts. As a result, Morgan expects more of a committee scoring approach this season and saw flashes of that while deploying 12 different players in the first half alone on Tuesday.

West made its move late in the first quarter, weathering what amounted to East’s largest lead of the ballgame at 14-7 with a 17-2 run that swelled the Wolves’ advantage to 24-16 early in the second stanza. Junior Farai Mandhlazi sparked a flurry of transition offense — grabbing rebounds, bolting up the floor and recording assists on three consecutive possessions to jolt West to a 16-14 lead it wouldn’t relinquish.

Although Mandhlazi was the lone West starter who didn’t score in the first half, partly due to battling foul trouble, he made up for lost time over the final two quarters and finished with 14 points, eight rebounds and five assists.

“[Mandhlazi is] definitely one of the guys who makes us go,” Morgan said. “Early on, he got in foul trouble so that first half was a little closer. We opened it up once he got back in. He does a lot for us and is one of our primary leaders on the court.”

That run unraveled a promising start for the Panthers, who benefited from a few crafty finishes at the rim from senior Deuce Hardison, who finished with eight points, to get in front early.

“They had a 17-2 run and got us in transition. I think 12 of their points during that run came in transition and two of them were just bad defensive plays and easy buckets for them,” said Matt Wester, East head coach. “In this district, you can’t give up runs like that and easy baskets like that. That run was the difference — we’d turn it over and they beat us down the floor.”

Both teams had trouble protecting the ball, with East managing to bait West into 13 turnovers over the final two quarters. But finishing on the other end with a challenge against a tall, deep Wolves frontcourt — driving into the teeth of the West defense likely meant having to shoot over senior Terrance Sanders, a losing proposition as the big man tallied five blocks to go along with 15 points and eight rebounds.

“We’ve got to be inside-out. As [Sanders] gets stronger — he’s just coming off surgery and is still getting back into game shape — he’ll do a lot for us on the inside,” Morgan said. “We’ve got a couple others who can play inside and that’s how we’ve got to approach. It won’t ever be just one person, it has to be by committee.”

West junior Trey Cheatham came off the bench with 15 points, attacking the rim at will to help the Wolves swell their lead to as large as 20 points at 65-45 before the Panthers made a late run to close the gap to 67-60 with 2:33 to play. Junior Muizz Qazi sparked the comeback with 10 of his game-high 21 points coming in the fourth quarter — draining four makes from beyond the arc on the night.

“We just made shots. They went into a zone and we got some open shots off that,” Wester said. “They were contracting in the middle and we’d just kick it out and got closer with a few makes that way.”

Although West went with an all-bench lineup during the rally, East forced Morgan’s hand and had the Wolves’ starters reinserted into the ballgame. West retaliated with a 9-1 run, punctuated by a Sanders dunk in transition, to put the contest out of reach.

The Wolves return to their action at 7 p.m. Friday on their home floor, welcoming Marcus. East gets a mid-afternoon tipoff in its next district ballgame, hosting Flower Mound at 3:30 p.m. Friday.