Slow Start Dooms HP in Playoff Loss

Highland Park’s Ella Patterson had to contend with a swarming Frisco Centennial defense during Thursday’s area round playoff game. The Lady Scots fell 58-38. (Photo: Rob Graham)

Highland Park’s 13-game winning streak — and its season — essentially ended in one quarter on Thursday.

Frisco Centennial stormed to an early 20-point lead and rolled past the Lady Scots 58-38 in a Class 5A Region II area round game in Coppell.

HP struggled to find an offensive rhythm against a quicker and more experienced Centennial squad that focused on controlling the defensive paint and neutralizing Lady Scots forward Ella Patterson.

The result saw HP score just 22 points in the first three quarters combined — less than the 26 that the Lady Titans tallied in the first frame alone. The scores were even after the first quarter.

“Nerves were the biggest factor, and when you play a team like Centennial, you have to shake them off quick and be ready to go from the tip. You have to be loose and just execute, and I think we were tight on our heels too much in the beginning,” said HP head coach Nicole Fleming. “It’s understandable. It’s the playoffs and it’s a big stage to play on, but the girls proved in the next three quarters that they deserved to be there, that they can play on that stage when they settle in.”

Patterson scored a game-high 14 points to lead the Lady Scots (22-11), who will return almost their entire roster next season. HP completed a perfect run through District 11-5A play and won a first-round playoff game despite playing with mostly freshmen and sophomores.

Avery Turner contributed nine points for HP, followed by Madison Visinsky with seven. The Lady Scots suffered their first loss since Dec. 28, which was also the last time they failed to score at least 40 points in a game.

“[Centennial] is a really good team, and it’s nothing to hang our heads about. It’s the exact motivation we need moving forward,” Fleming said. “The emotion you feel after a loss sticks with you longer than the emotion of a win, and these girls will use it a fuel for next year.”

Madison Cockrell and Leila Patel poured in 13 points apiece to lead the Lady Titans (25-7), while Madison Ott added 10 points. Centennial will meet either South Oak Cliff or Frisco Liberty in the regional quarterfinals next week.

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