HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL

Cedar Park advances to first regional tournament

The Lady Timberwolves have won 16 games in a row

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FLATONIA — Cedar Park is headed for Houston. 

The Lady Timberwolves made it to the regional semifinals for the first time in school history and pushed their winning streak to 16 games with a 58-31 win against Magnolia West 58-31 at Flatonia High School on Tuesday night. 

“It hasn’t set in,” head coach Donny Ott said. “We felt good about it yesterday because they had a locked in practice and on the way here they were (focused). I’ve got a team that loves each other and are truly committed to each other.”

Pujita Shukla and Nicole Leff each score a team-high 14 points for the Lady Timberwolves. Additionally, Shukla was 6-of-8 from the free throw line and Leff was gobbling up rebounds on both ends of the floor. 

Shukla shut down Magnolia West junior Hannah Eggleston, who averages more than 17 points a game, holding her to just nine points on a pair of field goals. 

Defensively, the goal before the game was to hold the Lady Mustangs to two single-digit quarters. Cedar Park did one better, giving up 10 points in the third quarter thanks to a late Magnolia West scoring run. 

“Over the last couple games, I’ve had to guard their best post,” Shukla said. “Every time I go in, we're just prepared and I never feel like I don’t know something about the other girl. And on top of that, my team has my back.” 

Alex Maresca added 13 points and Kilee West finished with seven.

Cedar Park got big contributions from its second unit. Callie Copeland scored seven points off the bench while Annie Callahan and Takara Holst both contributed offensively and Hanna Wheeler helped shut down Magnolia West on the point. 

“We practice against the second best team in the district,” Shukla said. “Those girls have grown up living and breathing basketball, so I’m not surprised. We know that we’re that good, but other teams don’t”

The gym in Flatonia sounded twice as big as it was as Cedar Park jumped out to a 10-7 first quarter lead. 

Copeland scored five straight points to extend the Lady Timberwolves’ lead to seven points with just over three minutes left in the first half. Cedar Park outscored Magnolia West 18-6 in the second quarter to push the lead to 15 points. 

The Lady Mustangs couldn’t buy a bucket to start the second half, going scoreless for the first two minutes oft he period. But they gained some momentum late and trailed 41-23 after three quarters. 

With two minutes left, Leff made a tough layup, a long two-point shot, had a block on the defensive end and hit another jump shot to help Cedar Park seal the deal. 

“They share the ball,” Ott said. “Our bench just keeps going and there’s no drop-off. I can still  call the same things and I can trust we’ll have the same defensive mentality because collectively, they’ve all bought in.”

Cedar Park takes on Crosby on Friday at 5 p.m. in the regional semifinals at Delmar Fieldhouse in Houston. The winner will take on either Temple or Barbers Hill in the regional final on Saturday afternoon. 

“I’m just overwhelmed because we’ve never done this,” Leff said. “This whole year, we’ve made so much history. The fans and parents have been so supportive and then our bench is hype and my teammates are amazing. It’s crazy to be around this atmosphere and it’s really fun.”

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