WACO, Texas -- Nationally-ranked Pflugerville received a double-double from senior forward Jonelle Smith (pictured) with game-highs of 16 points and 10 rebounds and 13 points from senior point guard Taylor Ross, but it was the free throw of freshman reserve guard Mykiel Burleson with 5.9 seconds left that gave the Panthers a 64-63 victory over Plano West in the UIL state playoff Region II semifinals Friday night. The round of 16 game was played at the Ferrell Center on the campus of Baylor University.
Pflugerville, now 37-0, advances to the Regional championship game to face Spring Dekaney (34-3) on Saturday, Feb. 23 at 6 p.m. at the Ferrell Center for the right to go to the UIL State Tournament semifinals (Final Four) next weekend in Austin. Dekaney topped Dallas Skyline, 48-45 in Friday night's other Region II semifinal.
This marks the fifth time since 2005 that Pflugerville has advanced to the Regional Finals, also playing in 2005, 2008, 2009 and 2011.
Plano West (36-4) tied the game at 63-all when sophomore guard Sydney Skinner made two free throws with 53 seconds left in the game. Pflugerville and Plano West both turned the ball over on their next possessions. Regaining the ball, Pflugerville's Ross drove to the basket and missed on a short banked jumper, with Burleson grabbing the rebound. Burleson went up with a putback and was fouled, sending her to the free throw line with seconds remaining. She missed the first foul shot but cleanly sank the second.
On its final possession, Plano West worked the ball to guard Allison Staley but her three-pointer from the right baseline fell way short, hitting the side of the backboard as time expired.
Saturday's Pflugerville-Dekaney winner represents Region II at next weekend's UIL State Tournament semifinals and championship (Final Four) which takes place at the Erwin Center at the University of Texas.
This marks the 15th time in Pflugerville history that the team has played in the regional finals. Pflugerville has advanced six times to the State Tournament (Final Four), the last being in 2009.
Pflugerville used a strong rebounding effort and some clutch free throws down the stretch to seal the win. Pflugerville held a 46-27 rebounding edge and the Panthers had 20 offensive rebounds.
The Panthers held a nine-point lead at intermission, 35-26. Pflugerville made 50 percent of its first-half shots (15-30) and held a commanding 26-11 edge in rebounding. Plano West made just 11 of 30 field goals in the half (37 percent) and committed 16 turnovers.
Pflugerville led 51-41 after the third quarter but Plano West chipped away at the lead as the Panthers turned the ball over three times and missed two shots in the first three minutes of the final period.
Smith and Ross were the lone Panthers in double-figure scoring. They were followed by senior guard Bre Payne (nine points), senior forward Diana Omozee (eight points) and Burleson (eight points). Omozee also had nine rebounds and three steals, while Ross added four assists and four steals.
Plano West was led by senior guard Devri Owens (14 points) and Skinner (13).
In the final Texas Association of Basketball Coaches/Tex Preps Magazine 5A poll, the Panthers ranked second (behind undefeated Duncanville), while Plano West was No. 8 and Dekaney ninth.