By Chris Parry / Special Contributor
TYLER — Highland Park took Texarkana Texas High’s best shot and hung tough until the end.
But the favored Lady Tigers’ depth and shooting proved too much for the Lady Scots to overcome as their upset bid was stopped 75-54 on Monday in a Class 5A Region II bi-district playoff game at Wagstaff Gymnasium.
“That’s a great team,” HP head coach Nicole Fleming said of Texas High. “They’re athletic, they’re fast, and I thought we did [well against them].”
Mary Warriner Kemp led the Lady Scots (14-18) with 19 points. Caroline Keogh finished with 11 points and freshman Ella Patterson chipped in nine.
Texas High (26-5) was paced by 16 points apiece from Mia Wilson and Kerrighan Dunn. The Lady Tigers connected on six 3-pointers compared to none for HP.
HP rallied from a 16-point deficit to eventually take the lead, 48-47, with 1:27 remaining in the third quarter. Texas High responded with a 17-0 run that stretched into the fourth quarter to pull away.
“We were up against a couple speed bumps right at the beginning of the game, so I am proud of how the girls handled it,” Fleming said. “They stayed together as a team and kind of rallied and fought back. And then we changed up [our] defense in the third quarter and I thought we did great and then just fatigue set in, and the change in defense from them — where they were face-guarding one of our point guards — kind of rattled us.”
Texas High played a full-court press the entire game. Early on, HP struggled against it, with the Lady Tigers turning steals into layups or scoring on breakaways off missed shots by the Lady Scots.
The HP deficit stretched to 29-16 with 6:39 left in the second quarter when the Lady Scots began to turn things around, thanks to the inside play from Ashley Turner, Patterson, and Keogh. A putback by Turner sparked an 9-4 spurt to pull within 33-22.
Texas High responded with consecutive buckets, but HP did not waver, as Kemp began to cut through the Texas High pressure, either finding teammates or taking it herself for layups. The Lady Scots finished the half on a 10-1 run to trail 38-32 at halftime.
HP picked up where it left off in the third quarter, with Keogh scoring on a rebound and putback followed by a jumper from Kemp and turnaround basket by Patterson. That made it 39-38 with 6:16 to play in the third quarter.
While Texas High tried to find a response, HP continued its surge. A jumper from Abby Snelling followed by a steal and coast-to-coast three-point play by Kemp gave the Lady Scots a 46-45 lead with 3:04 left in the third period.
After two free throws from Texas High put HP behind again, the Lady Scots answered with a rebound and basket from Keogh to lead again, 48-47.
Texas High caught fire to end the quarter and did not let up in the fourth. The Lady Tigers outscored HP 28-6 after Keogh’s basket in the third quarter.
“They were hitting their shots and we were not,” Fleming said. “We were doing well on the boards in the first half, which was giving up our energy. And just it takes a toll on your energy when you miss your shots and [they keep making theirs].”
Snelling and Cassidy Yancey played their final games for the Lady Scots, who will return eight players next season.
“I thought we did great, especially with the experience we don’t have in the playoffs with the girls that we have, so I thought they did a great job,” Fleming said. “I think this is going to help us going into next year.”