Some obvious instructions at halftime from Plano coach Mario Serra spelled doom for Rosary Friday night in Aurora.
Plano junior Clarisa Martinez relayed that message after her team rallied from a 5-point halftime deficit to win 42-38.
"He just said we had a 6-3 girl out on the court, make sure we get it into her," Martinez said.
Martinez is that 6-3 girl, and after not making a field goal until the final minute of the first half, she scored Plano's first 8 points of the third quarter.
That helped the Lady Reapers turn Rosary's biggest lead of the game at 26-19 after Madison Richmond opened the third quarter with a steal and layup into a 31-30 Plano advantage heading to the fourth quarter.
Martinez, a junior, just missed a triple-double with 11 points, 16 rebounds and 9 blocked shots, not far from her season averages of 11.5 points, 9 rebounds and 6 blocks a game.
"She's a tough player," Rosary coach Jessie Wilcox said. "She really contributes a lot on both the offensive and defensive ends. You definitely have to work her into the game plan and be aware of her."
Playing its first game in nearly three weeks, Rosary (7-9) watched Plano (14-4) score the game's first 6 points until Karly Tate assisted Rachel Choice for a basket.
That started a good stretch of passing from the Royals who had assists on four of their five first-quarter field goals to grab an 11-10 lead after one when Richmond scored on a 3 and a layup to end the quarter.
Rosary also closed the second quarter strong. Tate scored and was injured while being fouled, and Sydney Zaragoza came off the bench to hit the free throw and complete the three-point play. Richmond took the ball the length of the court in the final seconds and sank a floater to put Rosary up 24-19 at halftime.
Besides emphasizing getting the ball inside, Serra also implored his team to turn up the defensive pressure in the second half. After Rosary made 10 of 24 shots in the first half, the Royals were just 5 for 23 in the second.
"We've really worked on trying to pressure teams as much as we can," Serra said. "First half we had to back off because we had some foul trouble. Our pressure is what we hang our hat on."
Trailing by 1 going to the fourth, Zaragoza's theft and layup quickly put Rosary back up 32-31. The Royals led 34-31 when Quincy Kellett found Megan Conlin for a bucket, then made it 36-33 on Tate's drive with 4:35 remaining.
That turned out to be the Royals' last field goal. They came up with several empty possessions down the stretch, scoring on just one of their final eight trips while Plano tallied 9 of its 11 fourth-quarter points at the foul line.
"Defensively they picked up the pressure and we felt we had to do the same," Wilcox said. "We were up 3 and when they picked up the pressure we followed suit and made some costly fouls that were unnecessary. We have to be more basketball smart and realize we are up. It's a lesson learned. We've still got plenty of games left."
Trailing by 3 in the final minute, Rosary had two chances to tie. Richmond's 3 from the top of the key rimmed out, and later Tate was called for an offensive foul for pushing off -- her fifth.
Plano wound up getting to the line 27 times and making 14; Rosary was 7 of 13.
"We need to make sure we make our free throws and we can't send other people to the free-throw line," Wilcox said.
Plano's Tachae Miles led all scorers with 16 points. Choice (9 points), Richmond (8), Tate (7) and Conlin (7) paced the balanced Royals while Tate grabbed 9 rebounds and Kellett hustled for 8 to keep Rosary -- playing its first game after 19 days off -- within 38-35 of the taller Reapers.