Scots Eliminated by Undefeated Panthers

By Randy Jennings / Contributor

COPPELL — An hour before Highland Park’s playoff game against the top-ranked team in the state, coach David Piehler said limiting Plano East’s strength, its offensive rebounding, and handling the Panthers’ pressure were keys to the game.

For the opening quarter, Highland Park accomplished both goals and led unbeaten Plano East 12-11. But the task of executing the game plan broke down when turnovers mounted in waning minutes of the first half and once in control, Plano East eased to a 74-45 victory in a Class 6A Region I area-round playoff game on Friday.

“I loved the first quarter,” said Piehler. “The score was right where we needed it to be. But we lost control of the tempo and Plano East is very good. There is no crime in losing to the best team in the state and I think they are the best.”

The Scots (26-10), runner-up in District 7-6A and a playoff team for the ninth consecutive season, were unsuccessful in their bid to reach the regional quarterfinal round of the playoffs for the fifth time in the last six years.

The Panthers (35-0), who have already surpassed the program record for victories in a season, are five wins away from becoming the first unbeaten UIL state champion in the top classification since Duncanville in 2006-07.

The playoff intensity was not too big for HP’s Henry Beckett, a 6-foot-6 sophomore with a deft shooting touch. Beckett led the Scots with 16 points including 10 of his team’s 12 in the opening period.

Three minutes into the second period, the Scots trailed by only two, but Plano East closed the half on a 12-2 run for a 30-18 halftime lead.

The Scots had one more flurry, trimming a 20-point deficit to 12 in the final minute of the third period on back-to-back 3-pointers by Beckett.

But as quickly as Plano East lost some breathing room, it got it right back on inside baskets by 6-6 junior D.J. Hall, the game’s leading scorer with 17 points. When the teams met in the second game of the season, a 70-54 Plano East victory, Hall scored 26.

Three Panthers scored in double figures with Rachard Angton (15) and Narit Chotikavanic (12) joining Hall. Jordan Stribling scored eight for the Scots.

“We had one returning starter and another that played sparingly and I’m very proud of what this group accomplished,” said Piehler. “I just don’t like the way it ended.”

Plano East lost to eventual state champion Lake Highlands 66-63 in the area round last season and has not lost since. In the five seasons prior, Plano East did not reach postseason play, including a 2017-18 campaign when Plano East went 0-14 in district play. That was the season prior to the arrival of coach Matt Wester, who said Friday’s victory was special for him.

“Coach Piehler is my hero,” said Wester. “When I first came to the area, he made me feel welcome. I think he is the best coach around.”

Of the 14 Plano East players, 11 are seniors. HP, on the other hand, graduates six and returns eight and will return to Class 5A next season.

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