The Muenster Lady Hornets caught a break by avoiding Haskell in the Class 2A regional semifinal game Friday, Feb. 26, when they faced Cisco.
Muenster triumphed in a 56-36 victory to set up a rematch against Lipan in the regional final Tuesday, March 2, in Prosper.
The Lady Hornets escaped Lipan in a 48-44 road tilt just three games into the season Nov. 17.
Head coach Chris Hightower expects his team to be pushed more than it has at any point this season.
“I’ve really thought that these two teams have been on a collision course the whole season long,” Hightower said. “There were some upsets along the way with Haskell getting beat, but I really think the last two teams in our region are the best and that’s the way it should be. We know it’s going to take a great game from us to win. The big difference from last year is we’re the underdogs. This year, I think most people would say we’re the favorite.”
Hightower said the Lady Indians, which won the Class 1A state championship last season, won’t be intimidated by Muenster.
“The main reason is this isn’t a team that has jumped on the horizon,” Hightower said. “They’ve got every bit of tradition as Muenster and more as they’ve won state. They’re not a stranger to winning big games. It’s not like we’re going against somebody that’s happy to be there. You’ve got two teams that have experience and have been there and done that.”
Against Cisco, the Lady Hornets used an early first-half lead to coast to their 20-point win.
Muenster was led by 15 points from Audrey Kubis, who had eight points in the fourth quarter. Annie Anderle was second on the team with 12 points. Jada Binder added 11 points and Martie McCoy had 10 points.
“We were up 39-20 and we scored 24 points in the first quarter,” Hightower said. “We played really, really well, but in the third quarter, Cisco did a good job of not relenting. They’re a big, physical, tough team. They’re not going to give up. We held them to 16 points in the second half. We played great defense, but they played good defense as well.”
Muenster was outscored 10-9 in the third quarter and Hightower said his team wasn’t as patient offensively.
Still the Lady Hornets held off Cisco 8-6 in the fourth frame.
Moving forward, the Lady Hornets have been sharp in practice and extremely focused, Hightower said.
Since the Lady Hornets’ win over Lipan in November, Hightower said his team has matured dramatically.
“The five girls that were on the floor in November were shells of what they are now,” Hightower said. “Each one has grown tremendously on both sides of the ball. From that first game, we were poor defensively and panicked on offense. I’m just not seeing that anymore, but Lipan has probably also grown. I feel confident that we can get it done, but there are going to be things they’ve put in or saved just for us.”
The Lady Indians employ a run-and-jump defense that focuses on full-court pressure. Hightower said navigating that pressure will be the main key of the game for Muenster.
“We can’t get beat in transition,” Hightower said. “We have to get back. We have to rebound well and that’s our motto, which is one tough shot and out. We also have to keep calm and don’t panic. They want to speed the game up and that’s where you mess up is if you try to play fast with them.”
If they win, a trip to the state semifinal game which will be set at a neutral site instead of San Antonio. Hightower said despite the change this season, the Lady Hornets still know what’s at stake Tuesday.
“Our girls get it,” Hightower said. “Not having a traditional regional tournament has its advantages. We get to prepare a little bit more, but there are some more disadvantages. You don’t get to stay in a hotel or cut the nets down. That’s missing. We’ll have to make that ourselves. We tried to celebrate the semifinal game, but there are bigger goals here. Not being able to go to San Antonio is disappointing.”
Reach Patrick Hayslip at firstname.lastname@example.org