Friday night's District 4-4A matchup between Lake Dallas and Denton was like a race between two cars with bricks on the accelerators, with fans waiting to see which ran out of gas first.
Denton defended its home court and defeated rival Lake Dallas 46-39 at the Purple Pit, keeping the Broncos' playoff chances alive. Senior D.J. Hicks had 16 points to lead all scorers, with eight in each half. Dontonio Jordan led the Falcons with 11 points.
Both teams raced up and down the court, and transition opportunities were bountiful.
Lake Dallas' Tre Dickerson converted a three-point play to trim Denton's lead to one late in the game, but Ronny Garza hit a midrange jumper with 1:34 remaining to help the Broncos pull out the close victory.
"We just made a few more plays than they did tonight, and that's probably the difference in the game," Denton head coach Harold Jackson said.
Denton's "few more plays" included two big baskets by Hicks in the fourth quarter while the outcome was still up in the air. Hicks also drew three charges on the defensive end.
"That dude comes to work every day," Jackson said. "And I mean that. He comes to work. It's not based upon how D.J. feels. He comes to work. His emotions don't sway him one way or the other. He's going to be solid all the time."
The matchup was an intriguing one, as Denton's J.J. Harper and Lake Dallas' De'Andre Kelley are first cousins. Lake Dallas head coach Matthew Kloske said his team's performance has drastically improved over its past few games, but since both teams know each other so well, the loss stings a little more.
"For the last three games, our kids have played exceptionally," Kloske said. "They've put games together - playing together and competing. This one hurts. It hurts because it's a rivalry game."
Lake Dallas (2-22, 1-7) jumped out to a 12-8 lead after the first quarter behind three 3-pointers by Jordan. Denton rallied in the second quarter to take a 22-21 lead into halftime - an edge the Broncos held for the remainder of the game.
Jackson knows his team will have to win almost every one of its four remaining regular-season games to make the postseason. Denton (11-14, 3-5) is in fifth place - one spot behind Wichita Falls for the final playoff spot.
"Our destiny is in our hands," Jackson said.
Denton 49, Lake Dallas 41
Success didn't come easy to the Denton girls four years ago, when they finished with a record of 4-28.
After Friday's victory over a short-handed Lake Dallas squad, the Lady Broncos had their 20th win of the season, something Dennis Krishka had previously accomplished once during his six years as Denton's head coach.
"I think it's a credit to our kids and our coaches of how hard we've worked to bring the program back," Krishka said. "It's been a long road back."
Denton's Jasmine Taylor led all scorers with 18 points, while Le'Andra Johnson and Jamecia Brown each tallied eight points.
Camylle Bowen scored 16 points to lead Lake Dallas.
Denton probably worked harder than it had to for the monumental victory. Lake Dallas was without Megan Dando and Erin Slater, two starters who remained on the bench against the Lady Broncos (20-9, 5-4).
Dando had a large boot on the left ankle she sprained in practice Thursday. Dando said she doesn't know how long she'll be unavailable, and that the swelling around the ankle must go down before a proper evaluation can be made. Slater missed the game with a concussion and should return Tuesday, Lake Dallas head coach Jason Boston said.
Despite those absences, Lake Dallas (6-22, 1-9) fought back from a 13-point fourth-quarter deficit and trimmed the lead to five. Denton weathered the comeback and responded with buckets from April Pena and Johnson to seal the victory.
Boston said he was pleased with the way the rest of his team responded to the two injuries.
"The other girls really stepped up in their absence and played really well," Boston said. "To replace the 20, 25 points you lose with those two out, you need other people to step up, and I felt like we had people do that."
Denton sits in fourth place in District 4-4A, which would qualify the Lady Broncos for the playoffs if the season ended today.
Krishka said his team plays with more energy at home than on the road, a factor that's ailed Denton this season. He also said Friday night's victory was vital for the Lady Broncos' playoff chances.
"We knew this one was absolutely crucial for us tonight," Krishka said. "We had to get this one tonight to give ourselves a chance to stay in the hunt, and know we have to figure out where that energy is when we go on the road on Tuesday against Ryan."
Lake Dallas 12 9 8 10 - 39
Denton 8 14 12 12 - 46
Lake Dallas - Tre Dickerson 10, Dontonio Jordan 11, Riley Forson 3, Charles Gowans 2, Bryce Williams 4, D'andre Kelly 4, Josh Jackson 5.
Denton - Michael Jackson 2, Ryan Daniels 8, Ronny Garza 6, Matthew Perry 2, Chavis Jackson 2, J.J. Harper 8, Manny Patterson 2, D.J. Hicks 16.
Lake Dallas 15 6 7 13 - 41
Denton 11 17 10 11 - 49
Lake Dallas (6-22, 1-9) - Camylle Bowen 16, McKenzie Harrison 9, Adryna Roberson 8, Kelsey Tuck 2, Samantha Llamas 6.
Denton (20-8, 5-4) - Jasmine Taylor 18, Le'Andra Johnson 8, April Pena 6, Dena Dergham 3, Jamecia Brown 8, Lyric King 2, Jacoiya Brown 2, Myesha Taylor 2.