HOUSTON — Cedar Park’s historic season came to an emotional end on Friday night.
The Lady Timberwolves fell to Crosby 53-47 at the Delmar Fieldhouse in the regional semifinals, ending their 16-game winning streak in the process. They won and outright district title and made it to the regional tournament for the first time in school history this year.
“We just kept fighting a grinding,” Ott said. “We had it to a one-possession game. Had a couple costly mistakes at the end. We've got to do a better job in the future of focusing on what’s best for the team. But I couldn’t be prouder.”
Sophomore Nicole Leff hit three free throws and, following a steal, Alex Maresca added two more to cut a Crosby lead that was as big as nine points to just one possession with under a minute left.
The Lady Cougars made nine of 11 free throws down the stretch and outscored the Lady Timberwolves 13-8 in the fourth quarter to move on to the regional final Saturday afternoon.
Leff led the scoring for Cedar Park with 18 points. Junior Pujita Shukla finished with eight points and Maresca added seven. Senior Jordan Ott hit a pair of 3-pointers in the third quarter and Callie Copeland led all bench scorers with five points.
Crosby was the most athletic team the Lady Timberwolves had seen in some time. They were forced to press early and their extremely deep bench was stretched thin with frequent substitutions.
“It changed the complexion of the game late because they got up and they started pulling us out,” Ott said. “We had to get creative with our lineups and make sure we had the right speed in there. We talked about trapping on handoffs and some of the things knew they would do in that situation.”
He added basketball is a game of runs and Cedar Park was unfortunate to have a couple of situations that they didn’t take advantage on the offensive end and defensive mistakes that caught up to them at the end.
Like Cedar Park’s regional quarterfinal win, Friday’s game started slow. But it picked up pace quickly as the first quarter went on and the Lady Cougars outscored the Lady Timberwolves 18-11 to go into the break with a 29-24 lead.
That lead quickly evaporated in the second half when Jordan Ott hit a 3-pointer and Leff tied things at 31 after a pair of free throws.
Ott’s triple as the third-quarter buzzer went off cut the lead to one point, but it was the closest they would get throughout the fourth quarter despite hustle plays by Shukla, Kilee West and Hanna Wheeler.
“I can only hope the younger kids see the way the seniors led this team,” Ott said. “This group is so selfless. There were seniors that might not have played much, but they were crucial in what they did for this team and how they brought this team together.”
Cedar Park won its first-round game against Willis 51-42, beat Rudder 54-47 in the area round last Friday night and dominated Magnolia West Tuesday night in Flatonia to earn a trip to the regional tournament.
Six seniors on the varsity roster played their final game for the Lady Timberwolves. Ott said this team was so successful is because every player knew accepted their role even if playing time wasn’t always the main focus.
“They were the most fun-loving group to be around,” Ott said. “They bought into what we were doing and they led the right way. Unbelievable kids that paved the way for what we’re trying to do. A foundation has been laid and it’s a strong foundation for kids to look up to.”
Everyone always said they went against the second best team in the district in practice, meaning the second unit was always had the potential to be just as good as the starters. There were five underclassmen on the roster this year and three of the regular starting five will return next season.
While this year will always stand out, Cedar Park is built to succeed for years to come.
“These young kids hopefully remember this feeling because this isn’t the last time Cedar Park is going to be at the regional tournament,” Ott said.