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Cowgirls corral Scots in second round of playoffs

Coppell advances to regional quarterfinals, receiving shot at redemption against Warriors

February 19, 2023

Coppell senior forward Jules LaMendola holds the Class 6A Region I area championship trophy at Euless Trinity on Thursday. Coppell defeated Highland Park to become 6A Area Champions, 54-41.

Olivia Short

Coppell senior forward Jules LaMendola holds the Class 6A Region I area championship trophy at Euless Trinity on Thursday. Coppell defeated Highland Park to become 6A Area Champions, 54-41.

EULESS – Vigor. Stamina. Camaraderie. The values of the Coppell girls basketball team illuminate the dimly lit arena. The Cowgirls continue carrying their culture with them, generating excitement and hope as they move further away from home and closer to achieving its dream of a state championship. 

On Thursday, the Cowgirls faced Highland Park in the Class 6A Region I area playoffs at Euless Trinity. The Cowgirls maintained a comfortable lead over the Scots for the majority of the game, ultimately defeating them, 54-41. 

Coppell (35-3) plays South Grand Prairie at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Irving MacArthur in the Class 6A Region I quarterfinals. 

The sound of squeaking shoes vibrates across the waxy surface of the floor, drowned out by the clamorous crowd and the shrilling scoreboard, resounding through the packed gym. Familiar faces to the Cowgirls line the multitude of the stands. Parents, teachers, past coaches and friends make the journey to Euless to support Coppell and its continuation of the season, pride swelling in both the onlookers and the players. 

“DEFENSE, DEFENSE, DEFENSE,” the crowd chants, desperately hoping for the Cowgirls to maintain their lead as the clock counts down the seconds in the final quarter. Ultimately, the Cowgirls’ fans have nothing to worry about as the fourth quarter is mainly offensive for Coppell.

Coppell junior guard Ella Spiller leaps into the air, cradling the ball into the basket and drawing a foul from Highland Park senior forward Paris Lauro. Spiller’s focus remains unphased, despite all of the distractions surrounding her, as she makes both of her free throw shots, extending Coppell’s lead to 48-36 with less than three minutes remaining. 

One of Coppell’s leading scorers of the game with 12 points, Coppell senior guard Waverly Hassman, fouls out with 2:38 remaining.

Coppell went 13 of 16 from the free throw line. 

“It is really important to make [our free throws] which I feel is going to be harder and harder the farther we [advance] because there is more pressure,” Hassman said. “But I feel like if [we] just focus on the free shot we are getting at the free throw line, we will be fine.”

Coppell senior guard Macey Mercer demonstrates the Cowgirls’ concentration and determination throughout the rest of the game as she finds herself at the free throw line with 1:29 left on the clock. Mercer inhales, closing her eyes and focusing on the net in front of her. The ball passes through the next and bounces back to Mercer as she prepares to take her next shot. Mercer practices her team again, and extends her arms into the air, setting the ball on its trajectory to the basket. The shot goes in.

As the time ticks away with 45 seconds left on the scoreboard, the ball darts around the court as Coppell holds onto possession in the final moments of the game. Flashes begin to go off in the stands as one by one fans on Cowgirls’ side of the crowd rise to celebrate Coppell’s impending victory. 

According to Coppell coach Ryan Murphy, Highland Park excels at hitting 3-pointers but didn’t have any in the first half, which he thinks threw them off. 

Murphy continued, explaining that Lauro is one of the most skilled players on Highland Park’s team and averages more than 20 points per game, but the Cowgirls’ defense was able to hold her 18, and forced her to work for it.

Coppell senior guard Allyssa Potter launches the ball to her teammate at Euless Trinity on Thursday. Coppell defeated Highland Park to become 6A Area Champions, 54-41. Photo by Olivia Short. (Olivia Short)

Murphy identified two of the Scot’s other top scorers, senior guard Vivian Jin and junior guard Audrey Walker. Murphy said that Jin typically scores 14 points per game but didn’t score any against Coppell and Walker usually scores double figures, but only scored five.

Coppell senior guard Jules LaMendola is left with the ball in the final seconds of the game, dribbling in the center of the court, facing the basket. The intensity in her eyes fades as a smile beams across her face. The buzzer chimes and the ball falls from LaMendola’s hands, as the first thing she does is shake hands with one of the Scots. 

For the first time this season, the Cowgirls tangibly reach out and touch their success as a gold trophy is presented to the team. LaMendola receives it, pride shining in her eyes as she looks down at her reflection in the trophy. 

LaMendola raises the trophy above her head as a crowd encircles her, first jumping up and down, unable to contain her excitement, then slows down to a halt, her head hanging down as all of the moments from the game and the season catch up to her. 

The Cowgirls now shift their attention to redemption against South Grand Prairie following last year’s playoff defeat. 

“I think this will be a battle and it will just come down to [who is] the better team that day,” Hassman said. “Last year really set a fire under us so we’re ready to take them out and go all the way.”

Until then, the Cowgirls plan on studying the Warriors’ personnel and tightening up their offensive execution. 

“We’re excited to get a rematch, to get another chance at them,” Murphy said. “You don’t always get a chance to avenge a loss, so I think we will be really locked in for that game.”

Follow Ava (@Avakjohnson4) and @SidekickSports on Twitter.

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