Panthers D-light in fourth, D-vour McKinney Boyd for 36-28 win
For three quarters, the Plano East and McKinney Boyd boys basketball teams were mirror images of each other.
The fourth quarter was a different story altogether, with the Panthers' defense taking center stage and commandeering a 36-28 to stave off the upset-minded Broncos.
"I've told these guys since day one that defense is what keeps you in games when the offense is struggling," said Jeff Clarkson, East head coach. "They did a great job down the stretch."
The Panthers (20-4, 2-0) overcame a 28-25 deficit after three quarters by turning in a fourth quarter that just might be the best on the team's 2012-13 ledger thus far. The exact opposite applied to the Broncos (16-5, 0-2), who were blanked, 11-0, over the final eight minutes.
"We were up 28-25 and from that point, we either fouled them or turned the ball over," said Nathaniel Christian, Boyd head coach. "You've got to be able to execute against a team like that. They're one of the best teams in the area."
The Broncos committed eight turnovers in the fourth quarter after surrendering the ball just eight times total over the three previous frames. East cashed in on the other end, with senior Patrick Birt chipping in plenty down the stretch.
On a night when the East offense couldn't buy a bucket, Birt lifted the unit by scoring six of East's 11 fourth-quarter points. He added three steals in the final stanza and even dished out an assist to senior David Havala for a 34-28 lead with 45 seconds remaining.
Overall, Birt finished with a game-high 12 points, four rebounds and three steals.
"[Birt's] so good at getting to the basket and he's so strong," Clarkson said. "He got to the line and knocked them down. He did a really good job there and did well on defense."
Senior Xavier Smith put an exclamation point on the victory with a wide-open fastbreak dunk in the game's closing seconds.
Looks of that ease were tough to come by all night long, with Tuesday resulting in the lowest scoring output for both teams. By that same token, it was also the fewest points allowed by the Panthers and the fourth-fewest yielded by Boyd.
"We just couldn't get anything going consistently on offense," Clarkson said. "We were getting good shots and getting to the line but we just couldn't get away from them."
"We did a good job (on defense)," Christian added. "I thought the guys executed the defensive game plan to a T. We just have to be able to execute the offensive part of it."
The Panthers held Boyd to just five made baskets in the first half but were only able to counter with six makes of their own. The result was a 19-15 lead at halftime, highlighted by a 7-2 run by East to close the second quarter that featured an and-1 conversion by senior Marcus Mathieu, who scored 11 points and added three steals for East.
Boyd responded with a 14-8 outpouring in the third quarter.
A well-placed back screen set up senior Mikel Parish, who scored six points, for a lay-in and a 21-20 Boyd lead and junior Taber McFadden expanded that margin to 28-25 by scoring an and-1 after a steal.
McFadden led the Broncos with seven points, although his and-1 -- scored with 27 seconds left in the third quarter -- would be the Broncos' final points of the contest as East remained unbeaten in district.
"They hit us with the back screen a couple times and after the third quarter, we took that away," Clarkson said. "We rebounded the ball well, got some steals and a couple defensive changes. It was really good."
Still winless in district after losing just three games during non-district, the Broncos try to right the ship Friday at 7:30 p.m. against McKinney while East hosts Plano West at the same time.