|G. Michael Graham Photo. The Highlands Bluebirds go over strategy in Monday's win over Covington Holy Cross. Both teams are 2-1 on the season.|
By G. MICHAEL GRAHAM
Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter
It may take some time for certain aspects to really gel with this young girls basketball team.
But the Highlands Bluebirds took care of the determined Covington Holy Cross Lady Indians, 43-39 on Tuesday in Fort Thomas. Highlands won the overtime battle, 10-6 to pull out the 9th Region win. Both teams are 2-1 on the season.
Highlands once again had balanced scoring. All five starters scored at least seven points. Junior post Alex Combs led the way with 10 points with Brianna Adler and Lydia Graves scoring nine points each. Guard Haley Coffey followed with eight and McKenzie Leigh added seven.
“I think we’ll have balanced scoring all year,” said Jaime Walz-Richey, Highlands Head Coach. “I have a great group of girls who can score when their opportunity arises. We have to take advantage of different mismatches.”
Highlands struggled because Holy Cross slowed down the tempo and used its size advantage with junior 6-foot-2-inch twin sisters Cessie and Ally Mayhaus. Ally Mayhaus finished with a double-double of 13 points and 15 rebounds to go with four blocked shots before fouling out with Cessie Mayhaus leading all scorers with 14 points. Cessie Mayhaus blocked two shots and finished with four fouls.
“They’re both very strong,” Leigh said. “They post up well so it is hard to get around them. We just have to rotate and play good defense. We also have to have our hands up.”
Highlands lost the rebounding battle 41-27. But the Bluebirds made up for that and a 2-for-20 night outside shooting at the free-throw line. They hit 23-of-29 for 79 percent compared to 9-of-17 for 53 percent for Holy Cross. The Lady Indians missed several front ends of the 1-and-1 in the fourth quarter allowing Highlands to rally.
“We (coaches) just told (the players) we don’t think we can play much worse,” Richey said. “I don’t know how many times we’ll go 2-for-20 from three-point range and win but we talked about free throws. We’ve been working on them and they came in huge.”
Holy Cross built an 18-5 lead in the first half. Highlands finished the half with a 5-2 run to trim it to 20-10 at halftime. The Bluebirds trailed 26-20 entering the third quarter.
Highlands made things happen pressuring the ball all over the court in its 1-2-2 press. The Bluebirds recorded 15 steals to three for the Lady Indians. Adler led Highlands with six thefts.
“We emphasized more ball pressure up front and I think that paid off,” Richey said. “We forced the tempo in the second half and forced them into some bad decisions.”
Highlands made 9-of-40 shots total for 23 percent compared to 14-of-41 for 34 percent for Holy Cross. The Lady Indians made just 2-of-9 three-point tries for 22 percent.
Highlands did not rally back all the way until late in the fourth quarter. Leigh found Coffey on the right win for a three-pointer to give the Bluebirds a 31-30 lead with 49.1 seconds left in the game.
“Our main thing is to shoot threes,” Coffey said. “We weren’t holding our form. We had to find other ways to win, but that three helped us. We got up after that and it was exciting.”
After Cessie Mayhaus made an old-fashioned three-point play, Graves drew a foul on an offensive rebound. She made both free throws to ties the game at 33 with 14.7 seconds left. Holy Cross then missed its final shot in regulation to send the game to overtime.
Highlands went on a 5-0 run to start overtime and never looked back. Leigh spun toward the basket on the right block, scored and converted the old-fashioned three-point play before Adler recorded a steal and fast-break lay-up from the left side to put Highlands up 38-33 with 2:33 left in overtime.
The Bluebirds then hit their free throws to ice the game. Adler hit two with 1:42 left to put Highlands up 40-35.
Highlands does not play again until Saturday. The Bluebirds travel to South Oldham for a 2:30 p.m. contest.