Defense lifts Waxahachie girls back to playoffs

Waxahachie returns to the girls state basketball playoffs after a rare absence a season ago.

The Lady Indians (20-9), runner-up in District 15-4A, face Round Rock Cedar Ridge (25-10) in the opener of a Region II bi-district doubleheader scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday at Waco High.

The second game matches 15-4A champion West Mesquite against Hutto, fourth-place finisher in 16-4A.

Waxahachie has relied on defense to make up for a lack of height and a youthful lineup. The Lady Indians start two sophomores, two juniors and one senior.

“Nobody is taller than 5-8, so we have to be good on defense,’’ said Waxahachie coach Lesli Priebe, who guided the Lady Indians to the Class 4A state title in 2006.

Waxahachie counts on the rebounding and scoring of 5-foot-7 junior Ja’Mayia Perez and the all-around play of 5-foot-6 senior guard Taylor Hill.

Cedar Ridge is a new high school without a senior class, so its roster of two freshmen, five sophomores and three juniors is younger than that of Waxahachie. Cedar Ridge enjoys an advantage in height with 6-foot-2 sophomore Courtney Brown.

The teams closed the regular season in opposite fashion, with Waxahachie winning its final three and Cedar Ridge dropping its last three to fall into a tie for second place in District 16-4A. Cedar Ridge settled for the third-place playoff berth after losing a coin flip with Pflugerville Connally.

In its two most recent playoff trips in 2009 and 2010, Waxahachie advanced three rounds before losing in the Region II semifinals.

“We’ve gotten great effort from our girls this season,’’ Priebe said. “We’ll need to play our best against Cedar Ridge.’’