High School: Lake Highlands

Highland Park and Frisco Wakeland’s meetings in the UIL Class 4A baseball playoffs have become a tradition like no other.

The teams have met in the playoffs the last two years, and each best-of-three series was decided in Wakeland's favor the final inning of the third game.

This weekend, the tradition continues for the third consecutive year in the regional quarterfinal round.

All of the pressure lies with Highland Park, which has been on the short end of two heartbreaking defeats at the hands of a group of current seniors who have taken part in both Wakeland wins.

“They have three that are definitely killers and that’s (Willie) Schwanke, (Justin) Swanner and (Hayden) Nixon and we’ve faced them the last three years,” Highland Park coach Frank Oliver said. “There’s still three names that are still around and they’re still a good ball club.”

Wakeland was the undefeated champion of District 9-4A. Highland Park finished second in 10-4A, turning its season around after a 1-4 start in district play. Since that sixth game of the district slate, Highland Park has lost just one game.

This will be Highland Park’s first best-of-three series in this playoff run as the Scots look to advance past the regional quarterfinal round for the first time in four years.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if it goes three games again,” Oliver said.

Area teams wiped from 5A Region II

Any hope of a DFW title coming from Class 5A Region II was eliminated in the area round last weekend.

The Metroplex’s chance at gold now lies in the hands of five teams in Region I, four of are facing off.

Southlake Carroll has one of the toughest challenges against District 8-5A runner up Flower Mound in a one-and-done match 7:30 p.m. Friday at Colleyville Heritage.

Two third-place finishers play in the other area pairing between Hurst L.D. Bell and Plano East.

Arlington Martin rounds up the five, continuing it’s West Texas travel to face Lubbock Coronado in the regional quarterfinal.

Lake Highlands playoff run goes viral

Seen the Harvard baseball team’s dance to Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” that recently took YouTube by storm?

If not, click here and check out the goofy dance that has tallied over 7 million views.

Well, the Class 5A area round might not have been all fun and games for the Lake Highlands baseball squad on the diamond -- Temple swept the series in two games -- but the Wildcats sure made the best of their bus ride to the Hill Country.

Here is the Wildcats' rebuttal to Harvard to the tune of Wham's “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go”.
Ashley Lindsey took the circle in Dallas Woodrow Wilson’s first-fast pitch softball game in the late '90s and led her school into a whole new era of Dallas ISD girls sports.

More than a dozen years later, and under her married name, Ashley Palavicini returns to Woodrow’s newly renovated home field at Randall Park as much as she can to pitch batting practice and fine-tune the technique of the team’s pitching staff, providing a softball fix she lost since she finished playing at Stephen F. Austin University.

Just as valuable as her knowledge of drop balls and risers is her experience building up a program.

“It’s been an awesome experience to see how much public school fast-pitch softball has grown and to see the team that Coach [Joe] Sawyer has put together," she said. "I was blown away.”

For the first time, Woodrow had an amazing 50-girl turnout for tryouts this season, allowing Sawyer to be more selective in his first year at Woodrow than the coaches who came before him.

That created a dedicated group of girls who have put together an 8-3 record in District 12-4A, putting the Wildcats in the hunt for a quality playoff seed.

Just as Palavicini helped build Woodrow's early softball program, freshman catcher Nina Hernandez is keying the team's resurgence.

Hernandez has a staggering .793 batting average with six inside-the-park home runs while managing Woodrow’s pitching staff from behind the plate.

“Nina could play anything,” Sawyer said. “I told her mom the other day that I wished she was my son because that’s how good she is.”

Woodrow outscored its last two opponents, Thomas Jefferson and Dallas Lincoln, by a 53-8 total.

“We have a sense of urgency towards playing hard in every at bat and every play, so it’s good that we can put this many runs on these teams.” Hernandez said.

Last undefeated team falls

No area teams remain undefeated in 2012 after Lake Highlands took its first loss to District 9-5A rival Richardson Berkner 5-3 last week.

Lake Highlands had taken the first game from the Lady Rams 10-1 earlier in district play.

The Berkner win ties the Rams with Lake Highlands for the top district seed at 10-1 with one game to play in the season.

Plano East pulls even with Plano

Plano East took the second district matchup against rival Plano on Tuesday in an 8-7 thriller, leaving the teams tied for No. 1 seed in District 8-5A.

The two highest ranked Metroplex teams in the ESPN Fab 50 poll both have one game left to play in district to attempt to sort out playoff seeding.

Plano East faces last-place Lewisville on Friday at 7:30, and Plano has sixth-place Plano West on Friday at 7 p.m.
Dallas Sunset’s baseball season is shaping up to be one that has been 18 years in the making.

Sunset (13-10, 5-4 in District 9-5A) is enjoying its first winning season since 2005. With five games remaining, Sunset also sits in fourth place in district, owns the tiebreaker over Richardson and is staring at its first playoff appearance since 1994.

What has accounted for the turnaround from a 9-18 season in 2011?

Coach Dorman Pryor believes it’s the leadership of his seniors, who from the beginning bought into a program that needed to be rebuilt.

“We’ve had some kids that have been committed to the program,” Pryor said. “I’ve got three seniors that have totally committed and do a great job, and it filters down.”

On the diamond, Pryor is one of the few coaches who have seen an advantage in the first season of “deader” BBCOR bats.

His program has traditionally been based on a small-ball philosophy, keying in on his team’s lack of size. Now, he can use the majority of his lineup to bunt for hits or move runners over with years of experience under his players' belts. Combine that manufacturing with a few scrappy singles hitters and the outcome is a winning record.

“We don’t have any power but we have a lot of kids that can hit the baseball,” Pryor said. “We’ve got what we call the midget mafia -- a ton of kids that are barely 5-foot-2 and they are leading the team in hitting and RBIs.”

The road to the playoffs is still an uphill climb for Sunset, which must again face Lake Highlands, W.T. White and Jesuit. All have beaten Sunset the first time around this year.

“There’s a whole lot of baseball left,” Pryor said. “We’re just praying it works out in our favor.”

Coppell, Lake Highlands have new managers

Two traditionally strong baseball programs, Coppell and Lake Highlands, have new faces trading lineups before games.

Coppell is in the hunt for one of the last two playoff positions under Kendall Clark as district play begins to wind down, hoping to avenge an area-round in 2011.

The Cowboys sit in a three-way District 7-4A tie at 6-4 with Keller and Denton Guyer.

At Lake Highlands, Cory Tucker came into the season with big shoes to fill in replacing the legendary Jay Higgins, who had a 44-year career with the Wildcats.

So far, Tucker has the Wildcats in second place in District 9-5A with a 14-9 overall record.

Lake Highlands' only district losses came against W.T White, whom the Wildcats have also beaten this season, and district-leading Dallas Jesuit. The Wildcats will face Jesuit again Tuesday.

Now that the Dallas Mavericks have raised a championship banner in American Airlines Center, the "one-and-done" label in Dallas could be passed on to the Lake Highlands softball team.

The last two years, the Lady Wildcats saw their season end in the first round of the playoffs at the hands of Sachse after taking either first or second place in their district.

And with five freshmen penciled into her starting lineup card, there was no reason for coach Kelly Baker to expect significantly better results as the 2012 season began.

But three-quarters of they way through the schedule, the Lady Cats have separated themselves as one of the top teams in the area with a 15-0 record.

“We have a lot more talent than we’ve had in the past and we’ve meshed together, spending time on and off the field working hard,” senior pitcher Erin Brennan said. “Everything just kind of falls together perfectly.”

"Perfectly" might be an understatement.

[+] EnlargeElisabeth Wall
Travis L. Brown/ESPNDallas.comElisabeth Wall is part of a Lake Highlands offense that has scored in double digits 14 times out of 15 games this season.
As if an unbeaten record isn't impressive enough, Lake Highlands has stopped all but two games early because of the run rule. The Lady Cats have played just 57 innings in their first 15 games, well short of the 105 that would have been played had every game gone the regulation seven innings.

Games are stopped early when a lead is 10 runs or more after five innings or 15 runs or more after three innings, and time limits can shorten contests during tournaments.

Of Lake Highlands' two full seven-inning games, only one was competitive, a 4-1 tournament win over DeSoto. The other was a 10-1 victory over District 9-5A rival Richardson Berkner.

What is the formula for Lake Highlands' success? As a team, the Lady Cats are pounding out a .521 batting average, a .645 on-base percentage and a .673 slugging percentage. Five players are hitting higher than .600, two others are above .500, and three more are above .400. Baker's aggressive base-running philosophy has worked to near perfection as her team has swiped 93 bases in 96 attempts.

Add to that Brennan’s near perfect ERA for the season, a microscopic 0.37 from three earned runs, and you have the makings of a team primed for a deep playoff run.

However, question marks still remain as Lake Highlands hopes to break its one-and-done trend.

All the innings lost because of run-rule victories could have been used to get extra repetitions playing at game speed, which can't be duplicated during practice. Also, conditioning could be an issue for the Lady Cats when they face longer games, and they aren't accustomed to the pressure and strategic changes that come in the late innings of close contests.

“I do see us struggling maybe around the fifth inning when it gets time for playoffs just because we don’t make it that far,” Baker said. “Also, I think it’s going to be different because we’re going to see different competition. They’re so used to scoring so early and so many runs that that’s the mental side of things we’re going to have to work on.”

Brennan and the rest of the squad do their best to make up for the lost innings and take care of the things they can control.

“I make sure I do my running off the field and make sure I keep myself in shape,” said Brennan, who added that she's familiar with players on other top teams through summer-league play.

The Lady Cats have about three weeks of regular-season games left to fine tune and set themselves up for what will hopefully be a memorable playoff journey.

“If we continue to play and get better, the way we’ve been playing, I think we could go pretty deep,” Brennan said.

Lake Highlands OT Perkins commits to Texas

February, 27, 2012

Lake Highlands offensive lineman Kent Perkins committed to Texas on Monday after visiting Austin on Saturday, HornsNation's William Wilkerson reports.

Perkins, a 6-foot-5, 295-pound right tackle, also had offers from LSU, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Baylor and Texas A&M.

Read the full story from HornsNation here.

Lake Highlands gets revenge against Skyline

February, 10, 2012
DALLAS -- Lake Highlands' boys basketball team (17-13, 8-5 in 9-5A) planned to exploit its height advantage over Dallas Skyline (14-14, 8-5) in the teams' first meeting this season.

It didn’t pan out for the Wildcats in a 63-58 loss the first time around.

[+] EnlargeJames Lonergan
Travis L. Brown/ESPNDallas.comJames Lonergan had a game-high 27 points, including 12 in the third quarter, for Lake Highlands.
Friday, Lake Highlands couldn’t help but try to get the ball to its bigs down low, and this time it worked perfectly in a 79-59 home win.

Post James Lonergan used his long frame to knock down a game-high 27 points for the Wildcats, 12 of which came in the third quarter. He fell one rebound short of a double-double.

“We put in a good week of practice working on that and making sure we could get the ball down low,” Lonergan said. “Working it down low seemed to space it out for everyone.”

That included guard Nate Welty, who sparked the Wildcats' 11-2 run to begin the second half that ultimately put the game out of reach.

Welty drained a 3-pointer just seconds into the third quarter and followed it with a behind-the-back pass to Lonergan on a breakaway that led to an easy layup for the big man.

“I had no idea it was coming,” Lonergan said. “I saw it last second and thought it was about to hit me and didn’t know what was going on, but it worked out. He’s very slippery in the post and can make some great passes.”

Welty added 15 points for the Wildcats.

The win complicates things in the middle of District 9-5A, putting Skyline and Lake Highlands in a tie for third place. Both teams have one more game to play; Lake Highlands against Richardson and Skyline vs. W.T. White.

If Lake Highlands and Skyline both finish the final game with the same result, it would force a tiebreaker between the teams.

If that situation arises, both coaches would agree upon a tie-breaking scenario, either playing another game or flipping a coin.

Lake Highlands coach Rob Wylie said he wasn’t sure which he would pick if the cards fell in a tie, but he said there are some disadvantages to playing another game for third- and fourth-place seeding.

“If it was for a district championship you’d probably see us play a game, but you might see a coin flip since it’s just for seeding," Wylie said. "I’m not real sure at this point. The problem with a game is everyone who is going to see you in the playoffs is up in the stands, taking down everything you’re doing, but in general, you’d like to decide it on the court.”
DALLAS -- Richardson Berkner (22-6, 10-1 in 9-5A) guard Xavier Thomas’ shooting touch was never better than late in the final frame of the Rams' second district match against rival Lake Highlands on Friday.

Thomas drilled a 3-pointer from the corner with just over a minute left in the fourth quarter to provide the nail in the coffin against Lake Highlands (16-12, 7-4) in Berkner’s 76-71 victory.

[+] EnlargeXavier Thomas
Travis L. Brown/ESPNDallas.comSenior guard Xavier Thomas had his fifth straight game with at least 20 points and provided a key bucket in Berkner's win over Lake Highlands.
Thomas finished with a team-high 23 points, something that has become the norm for the senior point guard.

Friday’s performance in a big District 9-5A game marked Thomas’ fifth straight game with at least 20 points.

“It couldn’t be a better time,” Berkner coach Jason Petty said. “This is when you want to be playing your best basketball, and he is. And it showed tonight in the result. A large part of the game is scoring, and that is his strength.”

Thomas showed off his scoring versatility, hitting a 3 in every quarter, scoring off the dribble-drive and going 8-for-12 from the free throw line in the second half.

Berkner struggled from the line and shot just 65 percent as a team, allowing Lake Highlands to remain close throughout the game and get within four points near the end of the game.

“It seems like the more we practice the worse we get, so maybe we need to lay off that,” Petty said of the free throw shooting. “We’ve been working on them all week and that was obviously something we didn’t do well tonight.”

With Berkner standout Soma Edo out with an injury, Lake Highlands' big men were able to thrive in the paint. Fifty of Lake Highlands' 71 points came from three post players, including 14 from James Longergan in the fourth quarter.

Petty said his rebounding force, Edo, should return to play around Feb. 10, just in time for Berkner’s district match with Dallas Sunset.

In the end, Thomas and Berkner just kept making key buckets to secure an important win.

“I was proud of our kids, and we stepped up and got a couple stops when we needed them,” Petty said.

Four area recruits make 2013 early top 100 list

February, 2, 2012
Four area players show up on ESPN Recruiting's early look at the top 100 prospects for the class of 2013.

The list is in alphabetical order, but players are ranked as four- or five-star recruits.

Celina OT Jake Raulerson is the area's only five-star prospect on the list.

Dallas Kimball DT Justin Manning, Dallas Jesuit WR Jake Oliver and Lake Highlands OT Kent Perkins are on the list as four-star recruits.

It's noted that players on this list aren't guaranteed to be in next year's ESPNU 150.

Overview: Most of top-tier teams from the area in the 5A Division II bracket come from Region I, so there shouldn’t be many surprises out of Region II. Don’t expect any Metroplex teams to make it much further than the area round in this region.

Bi-district »   Area round »
Region semis »   Region finals »
State semis »   Finals »   Totals »

Class 5A: Div. I | Div. II
Class 4A: Div. I | Div. II

5A Division I: Reg. 1 | Reg. 2
5A Division II: Reg. 1 | Reg. 2
4A Division I: Reg. 1 | Reg. 2
4A Division II: Reg. 1 | Reg. 2

Two teams from the AP state top 10 are in this region: No. 6 Longview and No. 9 Lufkin. Copperas Cove also received votes in the last AP poll of the regular season.

Favorite: Longview. With a final-game win over DeSoto to take the District 11-5A championship, the Lobos set themselves apart as the front-runner in this region. Longview went 9-1 on the season (5-0 in district), with its only loss coming against a 5A Division I favorite, Allen.

Watch out for: Mesquite Horn. It would be a long shot, but if you are looking for an area team to pull for out of this region, it would have to be the Jaguars (4-6). Horn opens up the playoffs against Copperas Cove, which could be one of the best bi-district matchups in this region. If Horn can withstand this test, it should be fine against the Rowlett-Dallas Lake Highlands winner. Horn went through Copperas Cove and Rowlett last season in route to a quarterfinal loss to Longview. Horn could follow the same path back to the quarterfinals it traveled last year.

Can’t wait to see: Dallas Jesuit vs. Sachse (7:30 p.m. Friday, Mesquite Memorial Stadium). This is the best bi-district matchup with two teams from the area in this region and would rival Horn-Copperas Cove as the region's best game this weekend. Jesuit (8-2) had a quality team throughout the regular season, even after losing its starting quarterback to injury in the third game of the season, and finished second to powerhouse Dallas Skyline in District 9-5A. Sachse (7-3) was a surprise at the beginning of the season, starting 4-0 before taking its first lost to Rowlett. Sachse quarterback Trent White is a beast in the passing game, racking up just under 3,000 yards through the air this season.

We hope to see: Longview-Lufkin. This would a great game if both reach the regional final, with two high-scoring teams.

Talent pool (FBS recruits): Longview: WR Eric Hawkins (Arkansas). Spring Dekaney: RB Trey Williams (Texas A&M), TE Armand Nance (Boise State), DB Jarrett Irving (Houston). Copperas Cove: ATH Orlando Thomas (Texas). Mesquite Horn: DB DeVante Harris (Oklahoma). Lufkin: DT Tomme Mark (offers: Michigan State, Tulsa, Utah, Kansas, SMU, Stephen F. Austin). Spring Westfield: DT Anthony Smith (Texas Tech). Leander: CB Martel Summers (offers: Arizona, New Mexico, Northwestern, Texas State, UTEP). Austin: WR Cayleb Jones (Texas).

Playoff-bound Jesuit tops Lake Highlands in 2OT

October, 22, 2011
DALLAS -- It was an exciting game at Wildcat-Ram Stadium on Friday night as Dallas Jesuit beat Lake Highlands 49-42 in double overtime.

The Rangers prevailed with Garrett Van de Ven’s 3-yard run that sent the Jesuit fans into celebration and the Lake Highlands crowd into silence.

“It’s a power play that we ran there," Jesuit coach Brandon Hickman said. "The offensive line did a great job opening up a hole and Garrett punched it in the end zone."

The win clinched a playoff spot for Jesuit (6-2, 4-1), which took over sole possession of second place in District 9-5A.

“We called a little trap play to the left and I just followed my alignment and I just snuck in there. It was a great play,” Van de Ven said.

It was a close game from beginning to end, as Lake Highlands continuously battled from behind to keep even with Jesuit, which moved the ball well all night.

“They had the same never-give-up attitude we have had all year and it showed tonight,” Hickman said.

Lake Highlands (4-4, 3-2) is left in a three-way fight with Richardson Berkner (5-3, 3-2) and Richardson (4-4, 2-3) for the final two playoff spots in 9-5A. Lake Highlands and Richardson play in Week 10 in what could turn out to be an elimination game.

The first half started off slowly Friday. Jesuit had the only touchdown in the first quarter with Will Brown’s catch on Brian Buell’s 1-yard pass.

However, the second quarter gave the home crowd reason to cheer. After Jesuit scored again on Buell’s 15-yard pass to Jake Oliver, Lake Highlands quickly bounced back with two touchdowns to tie the score 14-14.

Jesuit, however, scored twice more in the second on Buell’s 24-yard pass to Marty Murad and Van de Ven’s 33-yard run and took a 28-14 lead into halftime.

Lake Highlands got right back into the game in the second half with two touchdowns in the third quarter to tie it, 28-28.

Jesuit went ahead again in the fourth quarter with Van de Ven’s 6-yard run. However, Lake Highlands tied it up at 35-35 and blocked Jesuit kicker Sean Badger’s field goal attempt to send the game into overtime.

Both teams scored in first overtime. With the game tied at 42-42 in second overtime, Lake Highlands fumbled the ball, giving Van de Ven his chance to score three plays later and win the game.

“We all played together tonight," Van de Ven said. "The offensive line did a great job blocking and the receivers ran some great routes. All around, we just played together as a team and it worked out great.”
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Rockwall-Heath pitcher Caleb Copley worked out of a final-inning jam to go the distance, beating Lake Highlands 5-4 at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on Wednesday.

After giving up three runs in the bottom of the 7th, Copley found his command against Michael Ketchmark, stranding the game-tying run and giving the Hawks a memorable victory at the major league park.

Lake Highlands' rally began on a Ben Fields single, scoring Alex Temple from third. Blake Woodson roped a double over the left fielder’s head, scoring Ryan Spencer and Fields. With the tying run on, Copley finished the job by getting Ketchmark to pop out for the final out.

[+] EnlargeRockwell-Heath
Travis L. Brown/ESPNDallas.com Four local teams enjoyed the experience of a lifetime playing on a major-league stage.
“I was just trying to spot up,” Copley said. “I couldn’t put my changeup in the places I wanted at times. I ended up getting a couple guys out on changeups on the last few pitches. In the end, I ended up spotting up, doing my job and got out of it.”

While both pitchers had trouble finding the strike zone in the beginning of the game, Copley was able to settle into his off-speed pitches, relying on that changeup to get outs.

“My changeup -- I consider it my go-to pitch,” Copley said. “I like to throw it a lot. I like to throw it for strikes and get people out on it. When things start to get a little shaky, I try to throw that a little bit more than my fastball.”

Rockwall-Heath, No. 47 on ESPN Rise’s Fab 50, took an early lead, scoring three runs in the top of the first. Both teams' bats remained quiet until the top of the 5th, when Hawk cleanup hitter Jake Thomas roped a double and scored on a single by Jake Bledsoe.

Lake Highlands got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the 6th after a sacrifice fly from Hudson Taylor scored Sean Guion from third. Guion reached on a throwing error and advanced on passed balls.

The Hawks scored their final run on two doubles, the first by Jovan Hernandez. Thompson traded places with Hernandez on second after hitting a double of his own, scoring Hernandez.

“We had some big hits.” Hawks head coach Gregory Harvey said. “Jake Bledsoe had a couple different times with a runner on second and two outs and got big hits. We work on that all the time -- we think it breaks the other team’s back when we get a two-out hit and score some runs.”

Win or lose, the experience both teams had playing at Rangers Ballpark is one they will never forget.

“This is a once in a lifetime deal for a lot of these guys,” Harvey said. “It’s just something that’s pretty special and we enjoy doing it.”

No. 17 Flower Mound 8, Georgetown 4

Flower Mound withstood a good Georgetown team at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on Wednesday while also experimenting with different variations of defensive lineups.

Flower Mound head coach Marte Amrine said he used the special game to give all his players a chance to play as well as try players out at different positions.

“It’s awesome to give our kids the chance to play in the big ballpark,” Amrine said. “To play against a great team like Georgetown -- they are a great team. It’s a lot of fun having them come down and play. It’s just a good experience all around.”

Playoffs spots up for grabs in 3 area districts

February, 16, 2011
Although district play wrapped up Tuesday for boys basketball, three playoff spots remain unsettled.

In District 7-5A, Justin Northwest and Keller Fossil Ridge finished in a tie for fourth place after splitting their regular-season series. The two teams will play a play-in game at 7:30 p.m. on Friday at Keller Central.

Fossil Ridge forced a play-in game by beating Northwest, 66-58, in the regular-season finale on Tuesday.

The Panthers won their last three games to get into playoff positioning, including a 52-50 upset of Southlake Carroll to get the run started.

In District 9-5A, Richardson and Lake Highlands finished in a tie for fourth after Richardson beat Lake Highlands, 59-53, on Tuesday.

Richardson won three of its last four to force the play-in game. Conversely, Lake Highlands has lost four straight games. The two will play at 7 p.m. on Friday at Richardson Berkner.

Whichever teams win these two games won’t have much time to celebrate.

The winner between Northwest and Fossil Ridge will play Flower Mound Marcus, No. 1 in the ESPNDallas.com Class 5A area rankings.

The winner between Richardson and Lake Highlands will open the playoffs against No. 2 Garland Lakeview Centennial.

In District 9-4A, Carrollton Creekview failed to clinch the last playoff spot by losing to Frisco Centennial, 48-45, on Tuesday. Frisco Liberty won three of its last four to pull even with Creekview in fourth place.

The Creekview-Liberty play-in game will be 7 p.m. Friday at Frisco Lone Star.
DALLAS -- Dallas Skyline remained in contention for third place in District 9-5A with a 71-68 win over Dallas Lake Highlands on Friday at Forester Field House.

The Wildcats were down 36-28 at the half, but battled back to tie the score at 66 with three minutes remaining in the game.

A made free throw put Skyline up by three with 13 seconds left, and the Raiders held on.

"It was a battle like we knew it would be," Skyline coach Stanford Hill Jr. said. "Every time we've played them we've had a lead and they've battled back. Credit to them because they don't give up."

The loss drops third-place Lake Highlands to 8-5 in district play, with fourth-place Skyline moving to 7-5. Lake Highlands has one game left and Skyline has two.

If the teams finish in a tie, Skyline owns the tie-breaker because it swept the season series.
DALLAS -- Thursday was a wild night for the Lady Wildcats of Lake Highlands.

Lake Highlands squared off against rival Richardson Berkner needing a win to clinch the fourth and final playoff spot in District 9-5A over fifth-place Dallas Sunset. But the Lady Rams capitalized on Lake Highlands’ mistakes and took the game, 59-46, and potentially playoff the hopes from the Lady Wildcats.

After the loss, Lake Highlands head coach Holly Mulligan said her girls were distraught with the loss because they did not feel they matched up well against Sunset, their would-be opponent in a playoff play-in game.

“They did not want to play Sunset three times ... We don’t match up well with Sunset,” Mulligan said. “They’re not a stronger team in our district, but the way we match up with them -- we don’t match up well.”

Turns out they won’t have to face Sunset again and will get the last playoff spot up for grabs after District 9-5A last place W.T. White upset Sunset, 68-56, later in the evening.

“We are in!” Mulligan said via e-mail late Thursday night, a complete turnaround from the emotion the team displayed after the loss to Berkner.

The Lady Wildcats now have District 10-5A champion Garland to look forward to in the first round of the playoffs. But Thursday’s game left Lake Highlands with a few glaring problems to work on before their date with the Lady Owls.

Turnovers plagued Lake Highlands throughout the entire game, coming mostly from forced passes into traffic in the paint. They also had a bad case of happy feet, possibly from the excitement of senior night before the game, and were called for traveling multiple times.

Mulligan noted the team’s 23 turnovers in the game were well above the season’s average of 16, which is fairly high to begin with, she said.

Berkner was able to pull away and gain momentum for the remainder of the game after Jailee Thomas hit a clutch 3-pointer from the left wing in the middle of the third quarter. After the huge shot, Berkner was able to go on a run and keep the margin near double-figures for the remainder of the game.

“I definitely thought it was a turning point,” Mulligan said. “Basketball is all about runs, and they really started a strong run in the third quarter after [Thomas] led the way. But definitely that three sparked it.”

Thomas, a freshman, led all scoerers with 20 points. She had to leave with 15 seconds remaining after officials called technical fouls on both Thomas and Lake Highland’s Hannah Wedding during a battle for a loose ball. That technical was Thomas’ second of the game, resulting in ejection.

Lake Highland’s Joy Okeke led her team in scoring with 16 points.

The bi-district round of the state playoffs begin for all girls teams Monday and Tuesday of next week.

Richardson win over Berkner shakes up 9-5A

February, 10, 2011
Richardson Berkner looked to be in position to win the District 9-5A title heading into this week.

Richardson’s upset win over the Rams changed that.

Brandon Scott’s bucket in the waning seconds gave Richardson (13-15, 6-5) a 56-54 win over Berkner (22-8, 10-1) on Tuesday, giving life to Richardson’s playoff hopes and putting Berkner’s first-place status in jeopardy.

Berkner now has a two-game lead on Lake Highlands (18-10, 8-3) and Dallas Jesuit (14-14, 8-3) with three games left in the season. Berkner hosts Lake Highlands on Thursday night.

The win pulled Richardson into a tie for fourth place with Dallas Skyline (14-11, 6-5). The two teams split its season series.

Despite the stumble, Berkner can win the 9-5A title outright, even if it loses to Lake Highlands on Thursday. Its final two games are against Dallas Sunset and Dallas Samuell – the bottom two teams in the district.

Lake Highlands and Jesuit would need to win out and have one of the bottom feeders to beat Berkner to pull into a tie for first.