Also, HP boys basketball team looks for new starters to take larger roles
After reaching the third round of the girls basketball playoffs last season for the first time in several years, Highland Park has the experience and the motivation to go even further.
Five players will have at least three years of varsity experience, many in starting roles when the Lady Scots open their season in November.
“The experience is going to help,” said HP head coach Nicole Fleming, noting how the girls have “bought into the culture, and they’re serious about their goals.”
Four players graduated from a year ago — Bri Doyle, Ella Patterson, Cate Rhodes, and Madison Visinsky. All four were valuable contributors who helped to set a foundation for future success, Fleming said.
The top returnees include seniors Riley Mae Herrod, Alianne Elmore, and Avery Turner, along with juniors Maddie Heiss, Vivian Jin, Charlotte Collins, and Paris Lauro.
The Lady Scots defeated Joshua and Lufkin in the playoffs last season before falling to Red Oak in the Class 5A Region II quarterfinals.
“Those girls getting to that moment, you can’t mimic that in a practice,” Fleming said. “You’re happy that you achieved a goal, but being so close to one more step has left them with a burning desire.”
HP will be tested with a strong nondistrict schedule that includes the prestigious Sandra Meadows Classic tournament in Duncanville.
“We’re not going to shy away from competition,” Fleming said. “We want to be prepared and to see teams who are going to throw different presses against us. We want to experience all of that.”
Scots eye more postseason success
The HP boys should also benefit from a seasoned roster with eight returnees from a squad that advanced four rounds deep in postseason play.
Versatile senior Luke Hardenburg is the only returning starter for the Scots. Still, several other players received critical minutes in important games — such as Coleson Messer, Rhodes Crow, Drew McElroy, Alex Taylor, and Camp Wagner.
“By their second year, the game slows down a little bit for them,” said HP head coach David Piehler. “They’ve been tested in district games and playoff games. You don’t have to talk to them about how different varsity is going to be. They can anticipate it.”
Preston Taylor and Jackson Heis will add size and depth when they join the roster after football season concludes.
The Scots have had plenty of postseason success in recent years, including a run to the regional semifinals last season, where HP lost to eventual state runner-up Kimball.
Piehler credits a rigid nondistrict schedule of 6A opponents, plus defending 4A state champion Argyle, for some of that consistency.
“We’re playing some teams who should get us ready,” Piehler said. “That helps prepare us for the playoffs.”