With the last unblemished record and top spot in District 17-5A on the line, it was clear that Friday's matchup between Cedar Park and Connally was going to be a battle.
It did not disappoint.
The Timberwolves emerged from the heavyweight slugfest with a 60-53 win on the road to take over sole possession of first place and push their district winning streak to six games in a row. It's the best start to the district schedule for Cedar Park since the 2014-15 season when it advanced to the state tournament.
"Our guys executed the game plan and we took advantage of some situations," Cedar Park head coach Blake Brown said. "We did a lot of things well. We hit some shots and we played up to our capabilities. More than not, we made a lot of positive plays."
Jacob Hester led Cedar Park with 19 points with a trio of 3-pointers. Josh Baker scored 14 points, Karson Cater scored 11 points and Ethan Kieke finished with nine points for the Timberwolves.
Cedar Park held Connally big man Eddie Burgess in check all night, as he scored just four points. The Cougars' guards had more success, with Kylin Robinson scoring 26 points and Tyrone Perry adding 12.
"We had to pick and choose our spots where to double down on Burgess, which I thought our guys were locked in on that," Brown said. "We got that done helping off of key guys. Connally made threes and can get tot he rim, so they posed quite a challenge."
The Timberwolves kick off the second round of district play on the road against Glenn next Tuesday and host Weiss next Friday night.
The first quarter started slow but picked up intensity quickly as Connally had three straight offensive rebounds with just seconds left to finish with a bucket and a four-point lead.
Burgess was forced to the bench with foul trouble in the second quarter, and Cedar Park took advantage. Cater took his passing to the next level in the period and scored 10 points, hitting a pair of 3-pointers.
Brown said the senior guard is averaging nearly 7 assists per game and is well over 100 on the season.
"Assists are (just as) fun for me because I get to teammates some good shots and get some points on the board," Cater said.
Cedar Park did just enough in the second half to hold off any charge from Connally. Baker scored six points in the paint in the fourth quarter and the Timberwolves hit nine of 11 free throws down the stretch. Hester was a perfect 8-for-8 from the charity stripe in the final quarter.
"We're confident going into the second round and we know we can beat any team in the district, we've just got to stay true to ourselves and play our game," Cater said.