By G. MICHAEL GRAHAM
Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter
The Highlands Ladybirds basketball team moved back above .500 Saturday and hopes to keep elevating from there.
They again had contributions from every player that saw action in a 65-29 drubbing of the South Oldham Lady Dragons. Highlands (3-2) scored the game’s first six points and never looked back.
The Ladybirds won without one of the Twin Towers in Leah Schaefer. The Xavier commit stretched out her right leg behind the bench and walked on crutches after the game. Schaefer hurt her right ankle in Thursday’s 55-51 win over Bishop Brossart. Schaefer said she could be out a few weeks but will know more Monday when she goes to the doctor for evaluation.
“It was not going to be one person who filled Leah’s spot,” said Jaime Richey, Highlands head coach. “It was going to be everybody. I thought we stepped up and did that. Everyone did a little extra and that helped us win.”
South Oldham finished 27-5 last year including a 57-53 win over visiting Highlands on Dec. 10. The Lady Dragons won the 29th District, and finished 8th Region runner-up, 52-47 to Walton-Verona. But South Oldham (0-4) has a new head coach in Christy Higdon and only dressed nine players.
The Highlands domination started with the other Twin Tower. Senior post Jesse “Dirt” Daley tallied another double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds. The nickname fits Daley because she does a lot of the dirty work in the paint.
Daley received the nickname “Dirt” in the eighth grade. Highlands 2010 graduate Hope Cutter gave her the nickname when they joked about the movie Joe Dirt because the name of Daley’s older brother is Joel.
The Ladybirds made 21-of-51 shots overall for 41 percent, including 12-of-25 from beyond the arc for 48 percent compared to 8-of-37 for 22 percent for the Lady Dragons and no three-pointers.
Brianna Adler, Emilie Parton, Vanessa Fisse and Lydia Graves made two three-pointers each. Adler, Parton and Graves followed Daley with eight points a piece and Fisse scored six. Haley Coffey, Ava Abner, Tomi Blanton and Alex Combs also hit one triple each for Highlands.
“Their defense packed it in the paint really well,” Adler said. “So we just had to keep kicking it out and finding the open person. You pretty much have to read what the help side defense is doing. If they’re in the paint, kick it out. If they’re not, get the ball in to the posts.”
Highlands took South Oldham out of its offensive rhythm with its pressure defense. The Lady Dragons turned the ball over 27 times to 24 for the Ladybirds. Highlands recorded 14 steals to seven for South Oldham. Fisse led Highlands with four thefts with Coffey, Abner, Parton and Graves recording two takeaways each.
“We made some really good traps, which made them turn the ball over a lot,” Graves said. “We wanted to keep them away from the middle.”
Highlands also won the rebounding battle, 45-21 and recorded 18 assists to eight for South Oldham. Parton followed Daley with six rebounds with Fisse, Abner and Graves adding three assists a piece.
The Lady Dragons did do a little better at the free-throw line making 11-of-14 for 79 percent. The Ladybirds made 11-of-18 for 61 percent.
Rachel Platt was the lone player to reach double-figures for South Oldham. She scored 10.
“I felt like we had a deeper bench and that showed (Saturday),” Richey said. “We made that extra pass, which as a coach, you’re always happy to see. We have to bring that same intensity we have at home to away games.”
South Oldham did not score its first points until less than four minutes remained on the clock in the first quarter. Highlands led 16-6 after the first quarter after Parton hit a three from the right corner and Adler made two free throws in the final minute of the stanza.
Daley picked up her second foul in the second quarter and had to sit the rest of the half. But McKenzie Leigh, Alex Combs and others held their ground in the paint in her absence. Highlands switched from man-to-man defense to a 2-3 trapping zone to protect the posts in the second quarter.
The Ladybirds still used a 13-0 run to go up 29-6 at one point with 4:19 left in the half. Abner, Fisse and Adler made three-pointers during that run. Highlands led 40-12 at halftime.
Highlands did struggle offensively to start the second quarter. South Oldham used a 6-0 run to cut the margin to 40-20 before Richey called a timeout. Highlands responded with an 8-0 run to go up 48-20 with 1:37 left in the quarter. The Ladybirds led 51-23 after the third.
Highlands won the final stanza 14-6. Adler, Blanton, Graves and Parton hit one three-pointer each in that quarter.
The Ladybirds take on 36th District rival Newport (3-4) at 7:30 p.m. Monday back in Fort Thomas.