BY DENNIS SILVA II | email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Now they wait.
Seven Lakes closed an impressive run to close District 19-6A play on Friday night, edging Mayde Creek 32-30 in two overtimes at home to cap off a surprising push for the playoffs.
The Spartans (12-15, 6-6 19-6A) have won five of their last six games after starting the district campaign 1-5. With the furious finish, they have placed themselves in position to contend for the program’s ninth postseason berth since 2006. With the inexperience on a team that graduated eight seniors from last year, playing into mid-February would be a welcomed sight.
District playoff matters figure to be determined Tuesday, the last night of the 19-6A girls season in which Seven Lakes has a bye. At 11-0, Katy is the district champion. Seven Lakes is in second place with six wins. Taylor, Cinco Ranch and Morton Ranch are tied for third at 5-6 each.
On Friday night, the Spartans seemed ready to place itself in the group with Taylor, Cinco Ranch and Morton Ranch. Seven Lakes trailed Mayde Creek 15-9 going into the fourth quarter, missing all 14 of its 3-point attempts en route.
But the Spartans awoke, outscoring Mayde Creek 13-7 in the final period to force overtime. Senior forward Kayla Kalisek drilled a pair of big 3s in the fourth quarter, and senior guard Dorothy Mao also nailed a big 3 as the Spartans finished the game connecting on four of their final six 3-point tries.
Nothing separated the teams in the first overtime, before late free throws by Bayli Bulawa and another big 3 from Mao helped Seven Lakes put the Rams away for good in the second.
“This team is just really resilient, and plus we’re young. If anyone tells us that we’re out of it, whether a game or the playoff race, we don’t know any better,” said Mao, who scored nine points and went 2-for-2 from 3 in the fourth quarter and overtimes. “That’s a positive. The first round of district, all those games were close. We just had to finish, and today was a good example of how far we’ve come.”
In going 1-5 during the first round of district play, the Spartans had a minus-27 point differential. In going 5-1 the second round of district play, Seven Lakes had a plus-10 point differential.
“With a team that’s just trying to grow and find their own identity, a young team, it takes time sometimes,” coach Angela Spurlock said. “Sometimes you have to know that you can come back from things. We started the year understanding it was going to be a different season. Sometimes that makes you play nervous and then you settle in. I think we’ve settled in and we’ve found our identity and see what makes us work.”
Spurlock, in fact, doesn’t think her team will ever be settled. She doesn’t think it will ever stop its search for an identity.
“It’s not the kind of year where we settle in and say, ‘this is who we are,’” Spurlock said. “I think we’re fluid. On any given night, any player is doing something different to add to their team’s chemistry.”
Indeed, in a game where offense was at a premium, Seven Lakes had five players score at least four points. In the fourth quarter and overtimes, six Spartans scored.
Spurlock hopes that “flexibility and diversity” in players makes the Spartans a tough team to scout come playoff time. The coach added that over the last six games, different players have produced big moments, whether offensively or defensively, at various points of games.
Friday, the star player of the game could have been any of the following: Mao, Kalisek, Addison Poth, Ashley Ngene and/or Bulawa.
“There was a time when they could’ve been done a long time ago, and they just aren’t,” Spurlock said. “I would like to believe that they’ve played for themselves as a team this year. Fighting to win is exciting, and you never know. If you take it one game at a time, you may just do what they’re doing.”