MESQUITE – With its outside shots generally off target, Highland Park had to find a different way to win its District 10-4A opener on Friday.
So the Scots moved from the three-point line to the free-throw line, where they held off a Mesquite Poteet rally for a 66-56 win.
HP scored just two field goals in the fourth quarter as it saw a 14-point lead dwindle to three, but the Scots (13-1, 1-0) hit 13 of 17 free throws in the final frame to keep the Pirates at bay.
“We were being aggressive and taking it to the basket,” said HP head coach David Piehler. “We made the plays when we needed to and got some stops.”
Clayton Murtha controlled the paint and scored a game-high 19 points for HP. Derek Cahn added 16 points, including a 6-of-6 performance at the line down the stretch.
The Scots have relied on accurate long-range shooting for much of the season, but made just one 3-pointer on Friday thanks to a combination of cold shooting and tough perimeter defense by Poteet. The lone trey was a pull-up jumper from the wing by Cahn with 1:02 left in the first quarter, keying a 9-0 run that gave HP a 20-10 advantage.
The margin grew to 14 points before the Pirates (4-4, 0-1) battled back, cutting the deficit to 50-47 midway through the fourth quarter. But Poteet never got any closer.
Jake Stegenga contributed 13 points for the Scots. Campbell Brooks and Mitchell Kaufman each played some valuable minutes in their season debuts after coming over from the football team.
Khalil Arnold scored 13 of his team-high 16 points after halftime for the Pirates, while Chris Murphy added 14 points.
HP will play in the Allen Holiday Invitational tournament next week, matching up against Rockwall in the first round at 2:30 p.m. Thursday. The Scots will resume district play on Dec. 31 when they host West Mesquite.
In girls action, HP remained unbeaten in league play with a 59-38 victory over Poteet on Friday. Katie Thiebaud scored a game-high 14 points and Caroline McDaniel tallied 11 for the Lady Scots (12-3, 3-0), who built a 35-16 lead at halftime. They will next play on Dec. 31 at West Mesquite.