By G. MICHAEL GRAHAM
Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter
COVINGTON – The Highlands Bluebirds boys basketball team shot well for the first half.
That gave the visitors a 33-31 halftime advantage. But things reverted back to the usual shooting struggles in the second half of a 63-55 defeat to the Covington Holy Cross Indians here Tuesday. Highlands (9-15) dropped its ninth straight game against 9th Region opponents falling to 3-10 in region play.
Highlands made 14-of-29 shots in the first half for 48 percent in the first half. But that percentage slipped to 34 percent in the second half as the Bluebirds made just 10-of-29 attempts.
On the other side, the Indians (12-10) made 21-of-46 shots for 46 percent. This included 11 three-pointers.
“We can’t guard everything,” said Mike Flynn, Highlands head coach. “We chose to guard the inside. They live and die with the three and they lived with it (Tuesday).”
The inside-outside duo of Antonio Campbell and Travis Gabbard gave the Bluebirds problems, especially when the 6-foot-6-inch Nick True got into foul trouble. Campbell, a 6-8 Ohio University commit, drew double and triple-teams in the post leaving Gabbard open in the corners for many shots. Gabbard made six three-pointers on his way to 21 points and Campbell finished with 20 making four three-pointers.
“Nick was the only guy physically who could handle (Campbell) the whole game,” Flynn said. “I thought Jake Gronotte played some good possessions against (Cambpell). He fronted him and got a steal. But that size eventually wears you down.”
Highlands did put two players in double-figures in True and Luke Turner. The duo scored 10 of their team-high 12 points each in the first half. But both had to sit part of the second half with foul trouble.
Neither team shot free throws well. But Holy Cross took 20 free throws making 10 for 50 percent compared to Highlands taking just five and making two for 40 percent.
Highlands did win the rebounding battle 38-30. Jake Gronotte led the Bluebirds with eight rebounds and Campbell had seven for the Indians.
Highlands took the lead and held it for a while after Turner hit a three-pointer in the first quarter. The Bluebirds led 22-17 after the first quarter.
The Indians tied the game at 26 with 5:30 left in the half when Christian McClendon scored.
But Bailey Witte made a three-pointer to give Highlands the lead back with 2:20 remaining. True hit two quick buckets to put the Bluebirds up 33-28 with 1:10 remaining before Cambpell hit a three-pointer with two seconds left to make the halftime score.
“We made some shots in the first half, but couldn’t carry it over,” Flynn said. “We ended up with more than 30 in the first half. That’s a big half for us. That’s encouraging to see maybe our stroke is coming around a bit. We need to maintain that the entire game.”
The Indians came out and reclaimed the lead on a Campbell three-pointer. He added another bucket to make the score 39-35 Holy Cross.
But Witte made another three-pointer and Ryan Greene scored to give Highlands the lead back. A Gronotte score made it 42-39 Highlands before a Campbell three-point play tied the game at 42.
Campbell hit another three-pointer to start the fourth and the Indians never trailed again. They led by 10 at 59-49 with 1:40 remaining following two Markel McClendon free throws. They sealed the win making 4-of-7 free throws after that point.
The Bluebirds will try for their 10th win of the season Friday at Lloyd Memorial (6-14). Game time is 6:30 p.m.