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No. 1 Plano East blows open lead in fourth quarter, defeats Keller in regional final

No. 1 ranked Plano East was too much for shorthanded Keller basketball to overcome.

Plano East defeated Keller 76-60 on Saturday in a Class 6A regional final at Wilkerson Greines. Keller (29-6) was looking for it’s first state tournament appearance since 2017 but fell short after the Panthers blew open their lead in the fourth quarter.

Keller defeated North Crowley in the regional quarterfinals and Lewisville in the regional semifinals to get to this point but met its match with Plano East (38-0), who will play in the Class 6A state semifinals on Friday at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

The undefeated Panthers were led by junior DJ Hall, a 6-foot-6 forward who is a big, strong body down low. Hall managed to score 31 points with an undersized Keller team utilizing different defensive looks to contain him.

The entire game was one of runs, and Plano East started strong with an individual 8-0 run by Hall. It looked as if the Panthers would open an early, sizable lead until Keller’s Rhett Schank got his team back into striking distance with an individual 8-0 run of his own.

Keller shooting guard Rhett Schank (12) takes a jumper in double coverage during the first period of the Conference 6A Region 1 Regional Finals basketball playoffs at Wilkerson-Greines Activity Center in Fort Worth, Texas, Saturday, Mar. 02, 2024. Bob Booth/Special to the Star-Telegram
Keller shooting guard Rhett Schank (12) takes a jumper in double coverage during the first period of the Conference 6A Region 1 Regional Finals basketball playoffs at Wilkerson-Greines Activity Center in Fort Worth, Texas, Saturday, Mar. 02, 2024. Bob Booth/Special to the Star-Telegram

The Panthers once again extended their lead but Keller’s Cooper Guerra got his team right back by tallying a four point play from the corner ahead of the second quarter.

The Panthers scored consistently in the second quarter, stretching the lead to 14 points. Every time they got up, however, it seemed Keller had an answer.

After scoring in bunches, the Indians cut the lead to five points heading into halftime.

Keller forward Steven Ramirez (10) drives into double coverage during the first period of the Conference 6A Region 1 Regional Finals basketball playoffs at Wilkerson-Greines Activity Center in Fort Worth, Texas, Saturday, Mar. 02, 2024. Bob Booth/Special to the Star-Telegram
Keller forward Steven Ramirez (10) drives into double coverage during the first period of the Conference 6A Region 1 Regional Finals basketball playoffs at Wilkerson-Greines Activity Center in Fort Worth, Texas, Saturday, Mar. 02, 2024. Bob Booth/Special to the Star-Telegram

The theme of runs continued and both squads scored in stretches in the third quarter. In the fourth quarter, however, Keller’s offense fizzled, and the Indians faced a deficit they couldn’t erase for the first time in the 2024 playoffs.

Junior Steven Ramirez and senior Rhett Schank led Keller’s offense with 15 points each. The Indians faced an uphill battle without a true big man against the powerful Hall, but Ramirez protected the paint and recorded multiple blocks.

Plano East senior Jordan Mizell was also a significant contributor with 18 points. The Panthers, at the state tournament, will look to secure their 38th consecutive victory.