Guard's play lifts Berkner past Lake Highlands

DALLAS -- Richardson Berkner (22-6, 10-1 in 9-5A) guard Xavier Thomas’ shooting touch was never better than late in the final frame of the Rams' second district match against rival Lake Highlands on Friday.

Thomas drilled a 3-pointer from the corner with just over a minute left in the fourth quarter to provide the nail in the coffin against Lake Highlands (16-12, 7-4) in Berkner’s 76-71 victory.

Thomas finished with a team-high 23 points, something that has become the norm for the senior point guard.

Friday’s performance in a big District 9-5A game marked Thomas’ fifth straight game with at least 20 points.

“It couldn’t be a better time,” Berkner coach Jason Petty said. “This is when you want to be playing your best basketball, and he is. And it showed tonight in the result. A large part of the game is scoring, and that is his strength.”

Thomas showed off his scoring versatility, hitting a 3 in every quarter, scoring off the dribble-drive and going 8-for-12 from the free throw line in the second half.

Berkner struggled from the line and shot just 65 percent as a team, allowing Lake Highlands to remain close throughout the game and get within four points near the end of the game.

“It seems like the more we practice the worse we get, so maybe we need to lay off that,” Petty said of the free throw shooting. “We’ve been working on them all week and that was obviously something we didn’t do well tonight.”

With Berkner standout Soma Edo out with an injury, Lake Highlands' big men were able to thrive in the paint. Fifty of Lake Highlands' 71 points came from three post players, including 14 from James Longergan in the fourth quarter.

Petty said his rebounding force, Edo, should return to play around Feb. 10, just in time for Berkner’s district match with Dallas Sunset.

In the end, Thomas and Berkner just kept making key buckets to secure an important win.

“I was proud of our kids, and we stepped up and got a couple stops when we needed them,” Petty said.