Successful offseason helps put Highlands on top in 27-5A
Highlands may have surprised some people with their 4-0 start in District 27-5A, but not veteran coach Adrianna Wiatrek.
“It’s mostly the same kids from last year, they’ve just grown up a year,” Wiatrek explained. “We played summer ball and fall ball, and the chemistry is just different from any team I’ve coached. I attribute that to working together all summer.”
The Owls (13-10 overall) prevailed 61-51 in a first-place battle with Edison (13-8, 4-1) Dec. 18 at the Alamo Convocation Center. Highlands had defeated 27-5A contender Sam Houston (14-8, 3-1) 59-55 in its previous game Dec. 14, effectively climbing to first place over its main challengers.
“I didn’t expect us to be 4-0,” Wiatrek said, “but I knew we would definitely be in the mix.”
Highlands is led by Layla Mendoza, a third-year varsity player, who finished with 29 points and seven rebounds against Edison. The junior made four of seven shots from three-point range.
“Layla is absolutely fearless,” Wiatrek said, “but having Alyssa (Flores) and Aizlyn (Reyes), those are my underrated kids. They do all the dirty work. Aliyah (Smothers) is kind of my muscle.
“Each of them has a job and they play it so well.”
Flores scored 13 points and corralled a team-best 22 rebounds.
After a couple of years with smaller teams, the Owls also are getting solid post play from Iyana Clay (20 rebounds, 2 blocked shots) and Brenda Davila (2 blocks).
“I think Iyana is one of the area’s leaders in blocked shots,” Wiatrek said. “She was swatting shots out of bounds earlier in the year, but now our transition game usually starts with her blocks.”
Avalon Munoz led the Golden Bears with 20 points. Madylynn Zavala contributed 11 points.
“It was tough because Avalon hit six 3-pointers in the first half,” Wiatrek said. “Our game plan was to focus on her and (Zavala). We needed to send (Munoz) to the lane, because (Clay) was there.”
Against Sam Houston, Wiatrek said Highlands drew on non-district games against Leander Rouse and Austin Lake Travis, in which the Owls worked their way back from big deficits to make the games close.
Mendoza was Highlands’ top scorer with 24 points. Freshman Alexis Ytuarte and Flores each scored 10. Wiatrek credited her defense with limiting Hurricanes scoring leader Khadija Derry to 13.
“That was huge,” Wiatrek said of the win. “We had to keep Khadija and (Kaliyah) Brown under control.”
Harlandale 58, McCollum 50
The Indians (9-9, 2-3) took control early Dec. 18 for a District 26-5A win over rival McCollum (5-18, 1-5) at Dennis Smith Gymnasium.
Harlandale grabbed a 34-23 halftime and held off the Cowboys in the second half. Serena Rodriguez led the Indians with 15 points. Marlayna Frausto supplied 10.
Alexis Martinez (17 points) and Ariana Garza (16) were McCollum’s scoring leaders.
Brackenridge 60, Lanier 43
The Eagles (8-9, 1-3) won their first District 27-5A game in convincing fashion against Lanier (11-10, 3-2) Dec. 18 at Alamo Convocation Center.
Brackenridge established a 35-22 halftime lead. Senior Angelica Truque erupted for 21 points for the Eagles and Lily Zamora scored 10 points.
Kayla Guzman led Lanier with 10 points.