The scenario began to look all too familiar to the Highland bench.
The girls’ basketball team has had its season end on its own floor three straight years despite being the higher seed in the playoffs.
A discombobulated second quarter put Highland behind Desert Vista late into fourth quarter, but there was no four-peat.
The eighth-seeded Hawks pulled it together thanks to a huge three-pointer by Mattie Lamb and clutch free throws down the stretch to beat No. 9 Desert Vista, 54-47, in the first round of the 6A Conference playoffs.
“The streak is over, finally,” Hannah Cohrt said. “Coach (Miner Webster) brought it up every day leading up to the game, and we weren’t going to let it happen.”
Desert Vista (16-13) had a 30-22 lead in the third quarter but Highland surged back thanks to its defense and 3-pointers by Alyssa Navarrete to tie it at 35 and Lamb for a 45-42 lead the Hawks would never relinquish.
“Oh, that was huge,” Webster said of Lamb. “She’s like that. She will be out there all dizzy almost and then she will catch the ball and make a three.”
From there the Hawks (19-10) made six of eight free throws to keep Desert Vista at a distance to beat the Thunder for the third time in the fourth meeting of the season between the two squads.
The Thunder looked to have the right formula in the second quarter and early in the third when they stymied the Hawks’ offense with good defensive pressure, steals and contesting every shot.
“We went into halftime telling them if we keep up that intensity we will win it,” Desert Vista interim coach Rod Berry said. “The defense let up and they got back into it. We had some bad shots, or couldn’t even get off a shot, down the stretch.”
The Thunder had a solid season considering they had to adjust to a sixth coach in six seasons to start the year.
“No one gave this team a chance,” Berry said. “They’ve come a long way, and they played hard for me. They accomplished more than most thought they could. They were written off, but they played with heart.”
Senior Madison Golla finished with 18 to cap a great senior year, while Sydney Grindler had nine.
The Hawks, who will play at No. 1 Gilbert on Saturday, were led by Lamb’s 13 on three 3-pointers. Cohrt and Kamryn Brown had 10 each to back Lamb.
“We self-destructed and we were our worst enemy in the first half,” Webster said. “In the second half, we settled down, started getting shots and hitting them. We told them if we could play a full 32 minutes, we could play with anyone.”
– Contact writer Jason Skoda at 480-898-7915 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JasonPSkoda.