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Year in review: The first half of 2020’s top stories in Plano-area athletics



PLANO, TX – With the book about to close on 2020, it’s time to look back on the year that was in Plano-area athletics.

This year was like no other in recent memory, with high school sports around the country feeling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Amid the trying year, which included the cancellation of numerous UIL sports in the spring and the week-to-week uncertainties that plagued teams during the fall, programs from Plano ISD, Prestonwood Christian and John Paul II still managed to turn in their share of highlight moments.

The Plano Star Courier sports staff has compiled its top 10 sports stories of the year, starting with the first half of that lineup.

6. A realignment shocker for Allen, Plano ISD

The UIL’s biennial realignment seldom lacks for drama, and this year’s edition included a shocking development involving Allen and Plano ISD.

After sharing a district for the previous 22 years, Allen and PISD went their separate ways after the UIL opted to realign them into separate districts.

The move caught many in Allen and PISD by surprise, considering the geographic proximity of the two cities and their high schools sporting the four largest enrollment figures in the state.

As the two school districts acclimated to a change in scenery, the Eagles remained alongside McKinney ISD and Prosper as part of 5-6A, along with Denton Guyer, Denton Braswell and Little Elm, while PISD joined Coppell and former district foes Flower Mound, Hebron, Lewisville and Marcus as part of 6-6A.

Although that shelved some longtime rivalries for at least the next two years, Allen and PISD have reignited their spark with head-to-head meetings between Allen and Plano West in the football and team tennis postseasons.

7. Medals galore for Plano West wrestling

The Wolves continued to raise the bar on the wrestling mats in 2020, turning in one of the best seasons of any program in the state.

West showcased as much in February when its boys and girls teams both placed fourth overall at the state meet. The Wolves were the state’s only 6A high school to have both squads crack the top four in the final team standings.

Seniors Devin Patton and Leilani Hernandez donned gold medals after winning state championships at 128 and 148 pounds, respectively, while senior Tagen Jamison (132), junior Farid Mobarak (170) and alum Jacob Aragon (145) all took second on the boys side.

“I think we just have a formula and a training schedule right now, plus the kids really believe in themselves and have proven they can rise to the occasion when they get to state,” said Clay Goodloe, West head coach. “A lot of people wrestle better throughout the year, but our kids have done a great job peaking at the right time.

“It’s a testament to the great coaching staff, the club program and the parents and support this program has.”

8. One for the history books for JPII

The John Paul II boys basketball team had its best season ever in 2019-20, posting a 40-1 record and capturing its first-ever Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools state championship.

The Cardinals relied on continuity — returning all but one starter from its state semifinalist lineup the year prior — and an absurd mix of talent, size and length to take the state’s private school basketball scene by storm.

John Paul was dominant across its 40-win campaign, posting an average margin of victory of 24.5 points and scoring at least 90 points 14 times. The Cardinals finished the year ranked No. 1 among large private schools by the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches and as MaxPreps’ No. 41 team in the country.

Meanwhile, the Prestonwood Christian girls advanced to the state tournament for the eighth consecutive year. The Lady Lions posted a 20-12 record and finished as state runners-up after falling to The Village School in the TAPPS 6A title game.

9. Plano weathers adversity for regional finals return

For the second time in three years, the Lady Wildcats advanced to the regional finals.

Getting there required weathering some early-season adversity after Plano lost leading scorer Jordyn Merritt to an ACL injury. The Lady Wildcats regrouped and went 13-1 in District 9-6A, capturing the league championship and embarking on another five-round voyage through the postseason.

Plano relied on a stifling brand of defense while players like seniors Mikayla Eddins and Amaya Brannon rose their levels of play to make up for Merritt’s absence on offense.

Coupled with the development of underclassmen like Sanaa Murphy-Sowers and Jaden Berry, the Lady Wildcats maintained their perch as one of the state’s elite programs.

Plano’s momentous run fell one win short of the state tournament, falling to rival McKinney in the regional finals, 32-28.

10. Lady Wolves advance to third round

On the heels of their best season in program history, the Plano West volleyball team was right back in the thick of the contendership picture in 2020.

The Lady Wolves graduated a wealth of talent from their state runner-up roster, reshaping their identity behind a veteran back row as a group of young hitters developed through the season. West found itself in familiar territory, ranked among the state’s top 25 after upsetting powerhouse Flower Mound in district play.

The Lady Wolves accounted for the Lady Jaguars’ only district loss, ultimately going on to place second in District 6-6A. West would advance to the regional quarterfinals before falling in five sets to Denton Guyer and ending the year at 19-4 overall.

West had a number of players rewarded with all-district superlatives. Senior Ashley Le was named 6-6A’s setter of the year, junior Jean Dixon split hitter of the year honors, and sophomore Blaire Bayless earned newcomer of the year.