MCKINNEY, Texas -- Highland Park didn't need a historic offensive performance to beat McKinney this time, but it still needed late-game heroics.
The Scots' defense stymied McKinney's run-and-gun offense with a suffocating 2-3 zone that forced the Lions to take an excessive number of outside shots, including two desperation attempts to tie the game in the final seconds of regulation.
But tenacious pressure on the perimeter caused both 3-pointers to fall short -- as they did all night for McKinney -- to give Highland Park a 53-50 win on Tuesday at McKinney High School.
The victory puts Highland Park (19-8, 9-2) in first place of District 10-4A with just three games remaining in the regular season by virtue of having swept the season series with the Lions (21-9, 9-2).
"When we were in the 1-3-1 defense, that kind of left the gaps open in the corners and No. 10 [Kaleb Kite, 13 points] and No. 5 [Hunter Edwards, 15 points] were hitting all their shots," said Highland Park post Chase Fletcher, who led the Scots with 15 points. "When we switched to the 2-3 zone, it let us guard the outside more. They couldn't beat us inside just because of our size."
The game was the second nail-biter the two teams have played this season as the fourth quarter featured three lead changes, including Caleb Landes' bucket with 38 seconds left in the game that gave Highland Park a 51-50 lead it would not relinquish.
James Fraschilla's two free throws after McKinney was called for a flagrant foul sealed the win.
Things looked grim for Highland Park after McKinney stormed out to a 15-9 lead and leading scorer Luke Turpin left the game after getting clocked in the nose, but a key defensive adjustment by coach David Piehler sparked the Scots.
Highland Park moved into a 2-3 zone. With a considerable height disadvantage, McKinney couldn't get inside or get its transition game going. That led to a torrent of 3-point attempts that at times kept the Lions in the game but ultimately became their undoing.
"It was just more of a changeup. It was more just trying to change the momentum," Piehler of the defensive switch. "I figured if they hit a 3 we'd go back to man [defense], but they struggled and we got lucky. Sometimes as a coach you do that, you try something just to see if it'll work. Fortunately tonight it worked."
Highland Park led 31-25 at halftime. McKinney's 3-pointers began to fall in the third, giving the Lions a 46-43 lead going into the final frame, but the hot hand didn't last.
Tuesday's game was the polar opposite of the two teams' first meeting on Jan. 14 when Highland Park's David Allen scored a school-record 53 points to lead the Scots to a 87-79 victory in triple overtime.
Allen discovered the day after the game that he'd torn his meniscus and hasn't played since, but Highland Park has lost only once in Allen's absence.
"We haven't done anything differently," Piehler said. "Other guys are just picking up the load. They're stepping up."