Lake Highlands falls to Berkner, makes playoffs

DALLAS -- Thursday was a wild night for the Lady Wildcats of Lake Highlands.

Lake Highlands squared off against rival Richardson Berkner needing a win to clinch the fourth and final playoff spot in District 9-5A over fifth-place Dallas Sunset. But the Lady Rams capitalized on Lake Highlands’ mistakes and took the game, 59-46, and potentially playoff the hopes from the Lady Wildcats.

After the loss, Lake Highlands head coach Holly Mulligan said her girls were distraught with the loss because they did not feel they matched up well against Sunset, their would-be opponent in a playoff play-in game.

“They did not want to play Sunset three times ... We don’t match up well with Sunset,” Mulligan said. “They’re not a stronger team in our district, but the way we match up with them -- we don’t match up well.”

Turns out they won’t have to face Sunset again and will get the last playoff spot up for grabs after District 9-5A last place W.T. White upset Sunset, 68-56, later in the evening.

“We are in!” Mulligan said via e-mail late Thursday night, a complete turnaround from the emotion the team displayed after the loss to Berkner.

The Lady Wildcats now have District 10-5A champion Garland to look forward to in the first round of the playoffs. But Thursday’s game left Lake Highlands with a few glaring problems to work on before their date with the Lady Owls.

Turnovers plagued Lake Highlands throughout the entire game, coming mostly from forced passes into traffic in the paint. They also had a bad case of happy feet, possibly from the excitement of senior night before the game, and were called for traveling multiple times.

Mulligan noted the team’s 23 turnovers in the game were well above the season’s average of 16, which is fairly high to begin with, she said.

Berkner was able to pull away and gain momentum for the remainder of the game after Jailee Thomas hit a clutch 3-pointer from the left wing in the middle of the third quarter. After the huge shot, Berkner was able to go on a run and keep the margin near double-figures for the remainder of the game.

“I definitely thought it was a turning point,” Mulligan said. “Basketball is all about runs, and they really started a strong run in the third quarter after [Thomas] led the way. But definitely that three sparked it.”

Thomas, a freshman, led all scoerers with 20 points. She had to leave with 15 seconds remaining after officials called technical fouls on both Thomas and Lake Highland’s Hannah Wedding during a battle for a loose ball. That technical was Thomas’ second of the game, resulting in ejection.

Lake Highland’s Joy Okeke led her team in scoring with 16 points.

The bi-district round of the state playoffs begin for all girls teams Monday and Tuesday of next week.