HS Girls Basketball: Lady Highlanders Answer Skeptics with Statement Sweep Over College Park

By: Jake Wilson
| Published 01/26/2024


THE WOODLANDS, TX -- The College Park Lady Cavaliers (16-12) fell to the traveling Woodlands Lady Highlanders (19-13) in the second edition of The War of the Woods for the 2023-24 season.

The Lady Highlanders took home the season's first matchup against College Park with a 62-57 victory in December. Since then, lessons have shaped both teams, and their trajectories have taken them in separate directions.

College Park currently sits at the third team in the district standings, while The Woodlands is on the outside of the playoff picture looking in.

In an exclusive interview with The Woodlands Online Sports, Lady Highlander Head Coach Ashley Davis spoke on the lessons learned from the previous matchup and how they have been applied to the season.

“We felt like we were the better team at our house,” said Davis. “But we read articles that told us we only had homecourt advantage. So we had to keep fighting.”

An electric College Park gymnasium fueled both teams in their efforts to set the tone in the opening minutes.

The Lady Highlanders pressed heavily on defense, trying to interrupt passes and generate points off steals. Meanwhile, the Lady Cavaliers responded by blazing their offense down the floor to set up shots underneath the basket.

Both strategies balanced each other out, with the scoring being consistent and even on the scoreboard. At the two-minute mark, a three from Katie Westwood put the Lady Cavs into double digits and in front by their largest lead.

Turnovers and five team fouls in the first quarter compounded the early issues for The Woodlands, but the squad continued to scrap and fight for their points in the opening eight minutes.

All of the issues for the Lady Highlanders and late steady shooting from College Park left the teams with a first-quarter score of 17-9, with the Lady Cavs in the lead.

The scoring that highlighted the first quarter went dry to open the second. Zero points were scored between the rivals throughout the first two minutes of the quarter.

A mid-range two from The Woodlands broke the seal at the six-minute mark, but points would become a premium after both teams settled in defensively.

College Park’s lack of scoring allowed the Lady Highlanders to get back into the fight as they rode a 9-2 run into a Lady Cav timeout. Coach Brown’s attempt to halt her opponent’s momentum semi-worked, as the Lady Highlanders did rack up one last basket, but a tie was salvaged, leaving the teams tied at 21 points apiece.

“We had to relax,” said Davis during the halftime break. “Keep fighting, but we were too anxious in the beginning.”

With the teams deadlocked and tension high to start the second half, both teams engaged in a sloppy opening minute. Numerous turnovers, rushed possessions, and missed shots caused both teams to struggle on offense as the half got underway.

Normalcy returned when The Woodlands continued to push the momentum they had built up during the second quarter. Multiple long-range shots snagged the first lead of the game for the Lady Highlanders with no visible signs of slowing down.

The Lady Cavaliers tried to swing the momentum to their side again with a timeout, but the 12-2 run continued through the pause. But after some additional time on the floor, College Park managed a run that drew the teams close to a second tie.

Luckily for The Woodlands, two last-second makes grew some distance as the clock ended the third quarter. The Lady Highlanders went into the final eight minutes with a 37-30 lead and a chance to sweep their bitter rivals on the season.

With the pressure on them to get back in front, College Park changed to a press-heavy defense that provided little breathing room for the Lady Highlanders.

On offense, the Lady Cavaliers resumed their inside game and attempted to get shots near the rim. The change back revived the foul pressure that ailed the Lady Highlanders in the first half. College Park saw multiple shooters go to the line with shots to draw closer, but frequent misses kept the team in the rearview.

The Woodlands responded to the ramped-up tension with a methodical offense that ate substantial seconds off the clock. Lady Highlander possessions were composed and slow in their approach and took shots when the opportunities presented themselves.

“Once we took the lead, we wanted to make sure we had control of the pace,” said Davis on the shift. “Our focus was to be patient and see what happens.”

The calmer nature of the Lady Highlander's possessions kept the players in a head-strong manner that did not allow the pressure of the moment to get to them.

“They kept working,” said Davis on her team in the clutch. “The young ones are stepping in and showing they are ready for these moments.”

Some insurance points grew the lead with the game already in hand for The Woodlands, concluding their sweep of College Park on the season. The final quarter ended with the Lady Highlanders exiting with a 54-36 victory.

In response to the win, an exuberant cheer from the Highlander faithful rang throughout the gym, celebrating The Woodlands’ win. But for Davis and her girls, the proving moments will come down the stretch.

“They always find things to write,” said Davis on the skeptics. “But we’re going to show up on the court so we can give them something positive to say.”

The next statement matchup for the Lady Highlanders in their quest to become playoff-eligible will be against the Caney Creek Lady Panthers at home. Meanwhile, the Lady Cavaliers will fight for their postseason hopes in a road game at Oak Ridge.

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