LHHS Wildcats in 2023. Photo courtesy of LH Wildcat Club.

Joe Duffield’s Wildcats won’t be returning to the Alamodome this year for the state basketball championships, but he still has a stake in the games. The Lake Highlands High School head basketball coach who earned last year’s 6A title is a graduate of Plano East, and that team is having a golden season.

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Duffield was invited to chat with the players at his alma mater before they headed off to San Antonio, and the encounter was reminiscent of Jerry Allen’s rousing speech last year in the LHHS gym. Boasting a 38-0 record, the PESH Panthers are seeking to become the first undefeated champion since UIL created the 6A classification.

“You made this community proud,” he told the assembled players and coaches. “You play the game the right way. You play it together. You’re unselfish. You’re disciplined. Man, it’s meant to be. This is meant to be. Y’all are going to go down there, and only one team is going to come back with the net. Only one team is going to come back with the gold medals, and it’s going to be y’all.”

Plano East will face Mansfield Lake Ridge at 7 p.m. on Friday night in the 6A semifinals, followed at 8:30 by Round Rock Stony Point versus Beaumont United. The finals are Saturday night at 8:30 p.m.