G. Michael Graham Photo. Highlands guard Haley Coffey (center) brings the ball upcourt in Friday's game at Lloyd Memorial while Ava Abner (22) gets in position. Coffey scored six points in the Bluebirds' 73-59 win. That marked Highlands' 20th win of the season.
By G. MICHAEL GRAHAM
Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter
ERLANGER – One magic number for them has been 71.
When the Highlands Bluebirds girls basketball team has scored that many points or more in a game, the end result is a victory. The Bluebirds did that for the sixth time this season and third time during the current four-game winning streak in a 73-59 victory over the host Lloyd Memorial Lady Juggernauts on Friday.
Highlands moved to 20-7 with the win and Lloyd fell to 7-16. The Bluebirds have averaged 17.5 wins per season since Jaime Walz-Richey took over as head coach in 2002 but have not reached the 20-win plateau since the 2008-09 campaign. Highlands moved to 12-2 in 9th Region play.
Highlands saw 11 different player score during the win. The Bluebirds made 25-of-61 shots for 41 percent and 16-of-23 free-throw attempts for 70 percent in the win. They also made seven three-pointers.
“We’ll continue to shoot in practice a lot,” Richey said. “I think that helps in games. They’re confident in one another that they’ll make that extra pass for their teammates to shoot.”
The senior Twin Towers once again led the way for Highlands. Jesse “Dirt” Daley finished with 14 points. The other Twin Tower in Leah Schaefer and sophomore Alex Combs followed with 11 each. Another senior in Emilie Parton finished just shy of double-digits with nine points as she made two three-pointers. Schaefer also recorded six rebounds, four assists and two blocked shots.
Five different Highlands players made three-pointers. Parton and McKenzie Leigh made two each with Schaefer, Combs and Vanessa Fisse making one each.
“When we get (the ball) in to Jesse and Leah, they collapse on them,” Leigh said. “They have to kick it out to the shooters. Then we can drive and shoot. That opens up scoring (opportunities) for everybody.”
Highlands trapped the perimeter a lot and forced 23 Lloyd turnovers while committing just 10. The Bluebirds recorded nine steals to five for the Lady Juggernauts. Haley Coffey, Ava Abner and Schaefer led the way with two thefts each.
“We pressed some and when we did, we got some steals, which was good for the team,” Richey said. “But we also gave up some lay-ups. We can’t do that with the two regular-season games we have left and in the postseason against (Newport Central Catholic).”
In the process, Highlands committed just nine fouls to 15 for Lloyd. Only one player had more than one foul for the Bluebirds.
“It’s very difficult,” Parton said of balancing between being aggressive and not fouling. “You just have to stay on your feet and make sure you’re keeping the ball in front of you and you’ll be fine.”
The Bluebirds also won the rebounding battle, 34-26. They scored a lot of second-chance points outrebounding the hosts, 18-6 on the offensive glass.
Highlands would still like to tighten up its defense heading into the postseason. Lloyd made 22-of-41 shots for 54 percent and 8-of-12 free throws for 67 percent.
The Lady Juggernauts saw nine different players score led by Shelby Rudd’s double-double of 28 points and 10 rebounds. Rudd made all seven of Lloyd’s three-pointers.
“You have to give Shelby credit,” Richey said. “She made some three’s with people in her face. All of her shots were not open. We have to make sure we do a better job of not helping off her and making sure she doesn’t get the ball.”
Lloyd led 4-3 early, but Highlands surged ahead for good with a 13-0 run. Dayley scored six points during that run and Parton had five. The Bluebirds led 20-9 at halftime. The Lady Juggernauts came no closer after that point.
Highlands used a 9-0 run to go up 38-15 with 2:05 left in the half following a Tomi Blanton steal and score. The Bluebirds led 41-22 at halftime.
The lead expanded to 20 at 54-34 entering the fourth quarter. Schaefer led Highlands with four points in that stanza.
Highlands plays host to Walton-Verona (16-7) at 2:30 p.m. today. Walton-Verona won the All “A” State Championship and 8th Region crown last year.