By Chris Parry / Special Contributor
LONGVIEW — Highland Park shook off a slow start to produce a 9-0 spurt in the first half and an overwhelming 15-0 run in the second half in their playoff opener on Tuesday.
The Scots took care of Texarkana Texas High 67-54 in a Class 5A Region II bi-district playoff game. HP advances to the area round, and will face state-ranked Little Elm at 7 p.m. Friday at Flower Mound Marcus.
The Scots were led by senior guard Will Enzor’s 27 points, six rebounds and six steals. Cade Wagner was just as impressive, dropping 23 points while connecting on three 3-pointers.
HP struggled to find its range in the first half, missing its first six 3-point attempts. Meanwhile, the Tigers were connecting on its long-range attempts, including a basket by sophomore post C.J. Kelley to end the first quarter. Texas High began the second quarter on a 9-0 run to lead 19-8 with 5:46 to go in the half.
“The last four games we’ve settled in the first half for threes and that was a point of emphasis tonight for us,” said HP head coach David Piehler. “We did [it again], but thankfully, we woke up and started attacking the basket more and making shots. Once you start making shots, it helps everything else.”
Wagner made HP’s first trey to end Texas High’s second-quarter run. He followed it up with another one. The Scots then began turning defense into offense with steals and quick transition passes for layups.
Trailing 29-20 with 1:45 to play in the half, the Scots (23-10) used a 9-0 spurt to tie the game—all of it coming in transition. A layup by Finn Corwin followed by a kick-out to Enzor for a transition 3-pointer were followed by transition layups from Wagner and Corwin.
After a basket by Texas High’s Demarquis Vaughn cut HP’s advantage to 36-35 in the third quarter, the Scots did not allow another point by the Tigers (15-12) in the quarter until the 15-second mark.
HP’s best moment may have been when a long rebound off a missed 3-pointer looked like it was going to elude Wagner. The senior, instead, got enough of the ball to tip it to Corwin, who made a quick rifle pass inside to Dillon Powell for a layup.
A stunned Texas High had no answer as HP blew the game open with a 15-0 run.
“Some teams don’t think we can run, and I don’t know if [Texas High] thought we couldn’t, but we like to run,” Piehler said. “I felt like we had good outlet passes and attacked the basket. The second half was really enjoyable for me to watch that. [Texas High] is a good team. I knew they’d kill us on the boards. I think they had 12 offensive rebounds in the first half … but we got some stops early in the second half and I think that helped.”
The Tigers cut the deficit to 55-46 with 4:41 to play, but HP did not allow them to get any closer. Kelley had a double-double in the loss, scoring 10 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. Senior guard Caleb Wilson led the Tigers with 17 points.