Girls: Jones powers MacArthur past Plano West

CARROLLTON, Texas -- Irving MacArthur coach Suzie Oelschlegel went bouncing through the gym, hugging every well wisher and even dancing with a few before finally plopping down in one of the seats on Irving MacArthur's bench.

"I'm really about to pass out," she said.

Having a state title under your belt apparently doesn't make winning a third-round playoff game any less sweet.

And why should it? Players like Alexis Jones don't come around too often, and the defending champion Lady Cardinals got one step closer to a second consecutive title with a 67-60 win over Plano West at Hebron High School on Tuesday.

MacArthur advances to the Class 5A Region I semifinals against Lubbock Coronado.

"Our program is so blessed to have this kid," Oelschlegel said of Jones. "She is a fun, fun kid to watch. She's such a humble young lady. She is truly something special."

Plano West (34-3), which lost to MacArthur in the third round last year, had no answer for Jones. She finished with 35 points and eight rebounds as the crowd held its breath every time she touched the ball.

She was especially strong in the fourth quarter where she scored 14 points, which included the necessary free throws to ice the game.

"They were trying to trap me," Jones said of Plano West's defense. "Every time I got the ball, they were just trying to trap the ball and try to see if the other girls could do something with the ball."

But despite Jones' performance, Plano West hung in the game thanks to Brea Mitchell (20 points), Tyara Warren-Cox (13 points) and Devri Owens (9 points), who ignited the Lady Wolves' typically balanced scoring attack.

MacArthur (34-2) opened up an early 10-2 lead behind a scoring barrage by Jones, but the Lady Cardinals spent the rest of the half trying to fight off a pesky Plano West offense that blew through Cedar Hill's man defense last week but had a tough time getting to the net against MacArthur's 2-3 zone.

Shot selection was also an issue for the Lady Cardinals. While they were taking wild 3-point attempts, Plano West was connecting on high-percentage shots.

The result was a couple of blown leads for MacArthur and a 33-33 tie at halftime following a Paige Womack free throw in the final seconds of the second quarter.

"Coach O told us to stop settling for 3s and start taking it to the basket," Jones said. "They couldn't really guard us taking it to the basket."

MacArthur made better decisions in the second half though. Off-balance 3-point attempts were replaced with drives to the hoop and short jumpers.

After an Owens 3-pointer to open the second half gave Plano West its only lead of the game, Jones scored six straight points and got a block that set up another duece, helping turn a three-point deficit into a seven-point lead in a little less than three minutes.

"They came out of that third quarter determined," Oelschlegel said.

Owens finished the third quarter with another 3-pointer that got Plano West within five, but a Jones 3-point play shortly after seemed to break Plano West's will and the Lady Cardinals cruised from there.

"We knew it was going to be a hard one," Jones said. "It was a good game."