The Muenster Lady Hornets basketball team fell 45-22 on the road to Era on Jan. 8, but this time, the Lady Hornets are hosting Era on Friday, Jan. 25.

If Muenster can win and both teams finish out the season undefeated, it will set up a tie-breaking, third game that would give the winner the top playoff seed.

Muenster is coming off a bye week in which it didn’t play Friday, so the Lady Hornets are working on getting back up to speed.

The Lady Hornets have already had a lengthy break this season over the holidays and head coach Chris Hightower said breaks can stunt the progress the team is making, but he feels the team is getting back to where they were before the Christmas break.

“We are fixing things we fell off on,” Hightower said. “I think we’re right back to where we need to be. More than anything, eight days off without anything is a long break. We went straight into the NCTC tournament and played four games with very little practice time. We played some good competition and we weren’t hitting on all cylinders. We didn’t feel good going into district and we’re finally over the sickness that went around the team.”

The last time the Lady Hornets faced Era, they were held scoreless in the third quarter, but Hightower said there were many other reasons they lost.

“On the surface, it’s easy to look at the third quarter, but Era is tough no matter what. We do play well at home and I think that will make a big difference. We did have some girls sick that night. Things weren’t gelling, but I think we would have struggled no matter what. We are working on handling their defense better than last time.”

Hightower has been preparing his team for the crucial matchup on Friday, but he admits it has been difficult to prepare for Era.

“It’s hard to simulate Briana Knabe,” Hightower said. “I can’t tell my kids to be super fast and to go get the basketball. That’s hard to simulate. It’s kind of like our game against Alvord. We didn’t break that game open until the third quarter as well, so you have to adjust for the changes the other team will make as well.”

There were still positives to take away from their first tilt against Era according to Hightower.

“We did a good job of holding their post girl to no field goals and they’re trying to get her back in the swing of things,” Hightower said. “What hurt us was their 1-2-2, so we’ll try to prepare for that and coach Neu is a good coach, so I don’t think he’ll just stick with one thing. There are things that I expect him to change to give us a surprise.”

As far as Muenster’s offense is concerned, the Lady Hornets are mixing in wrinkles to their base offenses.

“What we do, there are certain ways you can defend it and we’ve tried to work hard on anticipating where the double teams might come from,” Hightower said. “At this point of the season, it’s not like you’re adding in entirely new things. It’s about fine-tuning and being able to adjust with what the opponent is doing.”

Defensively, the Lady Hornets are continuing to fine-tune everything.

“I’ve always been a coach that doesn’t add a whole bunch of things,” Hightower said. “We want to stick with what we do. We worked a little bit on our press and we didn’t do that against Era, who has a one-girl press break and there are only so many ways you can break a press. We really tried to break down our press based on the three or four looks other teams can throw at us.”

The Lady Hornets are 22-6 on the season and are ranked No. 18 in the TABC (Texas Area Basketball Coaches) poll.

Era, meanwhile, is No. 15 in the poll.

Needless to say, a win over Era would be big for the Muenster program.

“That would be a huge game for our young group,” Hightower said. “We’ve had a couple big games so far already, but it would be big for us to beat Era. It would definitely be a win our girls could hang their hats on and if not, we’re still headed in the right direction as far as being a spotlight program.”

Patrick Hayslip can be reached at sports@gainesvilleregister.com or on Twitter at @PatrickHayslip