RICHARDSON — Last season’s narrow bi-district win over Frisco Heritage served as a springboard to a deep playoff run for Highland Park.
Facing that same Lady Coyotes team in the first round again on Monday seemed like a good omen. But a cold-shooting night and a motivated opponent were too much for Highland Park to overcome in a 49-44 loss that ended its season at 24-8. It was also the first playoff win in program history for Heritage.
“This game last year came down to the wire,” Lady Scots head coach Amy Matlock said. “It was a two-point game, so it could have very easily gone one way or the other. I really didn’t feel like there was anything positive going our way tonight. But if you take away our last three fouls and free throws for them, it’s a tie game, too. They’re a good team. They’re solid. They have some good contributors. It just wasn’t our night. We couldn’t score from the 3-point line, and they shut down our penetration. We just needed a little more patience.”
Heritage (22-10) looked in synch on offense from the beginning, while the Lady Scots struggled on both ends of the floor. By the end of the first quarter, the Lady Coyotes had established a double-digit lead and a serious case of frustration for Highland Park, which missed seven of its first eight shots to set the tone.
“We had a rough start and couldn’t make up that deficit from the beginning,” said Lady Scots senior guard Kaitlyn Read, who led Highland Park in scoring with 18 points in the final game of her career as a four-year starter. “It was just a cold night. We weren’t making our shots. We had the hustle — we were beating them up just like they were beating us up. We had a few turnovers at the beginning, but we should have won that game.”
Only four players scored for Heritage — Bridjai Chaney (22 points), Montoria Tripp (18 points), Taylor Jackson (7 points), and Alicia Blackwell (2 points). The Lady Coyotes will play the Carter-Hillcrest winner in the area round later this week.
Highland Park, the District 10-4A runner-up, relied heavily on perimeter shots the whole night. The problem was the Lady Scots shot just 4-for-24 from beyond the arc. Yet Highland Park somehow battled back time and time again. It just couldn’t quite get over the hump and ever take a lead.
“We got frustrated because we drove a couple of times and got two offensive fouls,” Matlock said. “That shut us down. I think we thought, ‘Our penetration is gone, so we have to shoot the 3.’ We were not very patient on offense. We were in that rush to score. Maybe panic is the best word.”
After trailing by 18 points in the second quarter, Highland Park closed the first half on a 9-0 run to cut the lead to 24-15 at the break. From that point, Highland Park never got closer than to within six points until Caroline McDaniel hit a trey with six seconds left for the final points of the contest.
“We had no idea we were going to shoot that many threes,” Read said. “Courtney [Klingaman] is normally spot on; she was just a little cold. We’d hit a couple and just hit another dead spot. We just couldn’t seem to get the momentum.”
Read, who will continue her playing career at New York University, played in more games than any other Highland Park athlete during her career. Monday’s loss was her 123rd game.
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