Highlands taking measures to stay focused
AREA TEAMS INCLUDED: Burbank, Highlands, McCollum.
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Highlands is looking for ways to maintain its edge as it pursues the school’s first girls basketball district title in memory.
“We’ve been practicing against the freshman boys team,” 11th-year Owls coach Adrianna Wiatrek said. “We did it with that bunch that made the playoffs four years ago. We started doing it before the Sam Houston game, because they’re so athletic and so long. We couldn’t go against each other and get that kind of preparation.”
Highlands was halfway to an unblemished district season after claiming an 89-28 victory over McCollum Friday on their home floor.
The first-place Owls (18-9, 8-0) weren’t really challenged in their first pass through District 28-5A. The win over the Cowboys (1-17, 0-8) was their largest margin of victory. The closest win was a 50-38 decision over Brackenridge Dec. 12.
In her years as Owls coach and her previous five years as a Southwest assistant, Wiatrek is unaware of any previous Highlands district titles. Another unanswered question is whether Highlands has ever gone through an undefeated district season.
“We’re in uncharted waters,” Wiatrek said. “We’re trying to keep pushing ourselves and stay focused.”
Brackenridge (11-15, 6-2) shared second place with Lanier and Sam Houston as of Friday. McCollum was in ninth place.
“I also see Harlandale coming on through,” Wiatrek said. “I keep telling the girls it’s going to be a different second round. Just like everyone else is preparing, we have to keep preparing.”
Highlands outscored McCollum 32-2 in the first quarter.
“We’re doing a better job of coming out in the first quarter and pushing the pace,” Wiatrek said.
Aaliyah Prince led the Owls with 28 points against the Cowboys. The junior produced 30 points, seven steals and four blocked shots in a 71-33 rout of Burbank (9-15, 2-6) Tuesday.
“Aaliyah has really found her groove in scoring,” Wiatrek said. “She has been way more aggressive lately. She looks to pass when she shouldn’t. We have to have that conversation a lot, that she needs to be a little selfish.”
Senior guard Jina Lackey erupted for 22 against McCollum. Miranda Rich led the Cowboys with seven points.
“Everybody runs that 1-2-2 (zone) against us.” Wiatrek said. “Jina gets that rebound and takes off. Not many people can beat her down the floor. Her three-point shots have been so much more money, too.”
Point guard Kiara Pesina notched 12 points. Monique Jackson scored nine.
Burbank was within 11-9 after the quarter, but Highlands outscored them 44-13 in the second half. Highlands produced 20 steals.
Pesina finished with 17 points, five assists and four steals. Junior post Jazmine Jackson logged six points, six rebounds, three assists, three steals and two blocks.
Jackie Rodriguez-Torres led the Bulldogs with 12 points.
Highlands lost junior guard Sabrina Curren to an anterior cruciate ligament tear. Wiatrek said the injury has reminded her players of the need to stay in the moment.
“You can’t take anything for granted,” Wiatrek said. “Sabrina gets really emotional when she talks to them. She says, ‘Look what’s happened to me.’ ”