|PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, DWCPhoto.com. Highlands eighth grader Zoie Barth (14) goes up for a shot against Holy Cross senior Ally Mayhaus in Saturday's 9th Region battle. The Ladybirds fell 40-39 in overtime.|
By G. MICHAEL GRAHAM
Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter
COVINGTON – They may have lost this overtime battle.
But things could easily turn their way during should the Highlands Ladybirds basketball team not get upset in the 36th District Tournament semifinals and face the Covington Holy Cross Lady Indians again in the 9th Region Tournament. That’s what Highlands will focus on after falling 40-39 in double overtime in a battle of teams undefeated in 9th Region play.
Highlands (16-2 overall) saw its eight-game winning streak end and will look at a number of plays on film that could have gone its way to win the game. Holy Cross (16-3) instead earned another big win after handing in-town rival Holmes its first defeat, 51-47 Thursday. Holy Cross moved to 10-0 in region play and Highlands fell to 8-1.
“We had some unforced turnovers we usually don’t make,” said Jaime Walz-Richey, Highlands Head Coach. “Like I told the girls, it’s the regular season. That’s why we play these games. We knew it would be a close game like this. We came out a little flat in the second half. This is a game we have to learn from where every possession counts.”
Both teams played solid defense making points a premium. Highlands junior Brianna Adler made five three-pointers on her way to 17 points creating driving lanes.
“We primarily focused on trying to limit their open looks from the perimeter,” said Kes Murphy, Holy Cross Head Coach. “We didn’t really change anything for one person.”
But when Highlands tried to drive, Holy Cross senior twins Cessie and Ally Mayhaus put their hands up and made it difficult to shoot over them. The Ladybirds made just four field goals in the second half going 4-for-12 for 33 percent.
Highands junior McKenzie Leigh made some things happen in the paint with 15 points. She made all five free-throw attempts. The Ladybirds could not get her the ball enough.
Holy Cross mixed things up defensively in the second half and forced Highlands into 11 turnovers. The Ladybirds finished with 20 to 10 for the hosts.
That is a big reason Holy Cross had 45 shots to 30 for Highlands. Holy Cross made 16 shots for 36 percent and Highlands hit 12 for 30 percent.
The Ladybirds did better at the free-throw line. They made 10-of-12 for 83 percent but the two misses proved costly. The Lady Indians hit 6-of-11 for 55 percent.
Highlands did rebound the ball better, 30-19. Alex Combs led the way with seven rebounds and Leigh had six.
“We did a pretty good job rebounding. We told them that’s what we had to do,” Richey said. “We made people shoot the ball for them who we wanted to shoot the ball and we limited them to one shot most of the time.”
Dajah McClendon finished with 15 points and Deja Turner had 14. The duo scored six each in the third quarter where the Lady Indians outscored the Ladybirds, 14-2 to grab a 28-25 lead entering the fourth quarter. They penetrated to the rim in that quarter and scored some points off turnovers.
Holy Cross scored the only point it needed to win the game with 3:30 left in the second overtime. Aleaha Tucker made the first of two free throws. Holy Cross could have extended the lead but missed two front ends of one-and-ones.
Leigh made two free throws with 3:35 left in the first overtime to give Highlands a 37-35 lead. But McClendon scored an Turner made two free throws to put Holy Cross up 39-37 with 2:11 left. But Leigh scored to tie the game with 1:54 left in that overtime.
Highlands came out shooting well scoring the game’s first 10 points. Holy Cross did not score until Turner hit a jumper with 2:26 left in the first quarter. Zoie Barth made two free throws to give Highlands a 12-2 advantage after one.
Holy Cross did trim the lead to 19-14 with 2:56 left in the second half after a Turner score. But Leigh and Lydia Graves scored to give Highlands a 23-14 haftime advantage.
Holy Cross outscored Highlands, 14-2 in the third quarter. Leigh made two free throws with 3:02 in the quarter for the Ladybirds’ only points.
Adler made two three-pointers in the first minute of the fourth quarter to give highlands a 31-28 lead. Holy Cross tied the game at 32 with 1:55 remaining before Leigh hit a three-point play to put Highlands up 35-32 with 1:24 left in the game.
“Highlands did a fantastic job defending our posts and limited the open looks for our perimeter players,” Murphy said. “But it came down to defense. Luckily, the ball bounced our way. We really lucked out getting this win.”
But after McClendon made a free throw, McClendon scored after a turnover to tie the game at 35. Highlands ran the time down to 7.5 seconds left and called timeout. The Ladybirds attacked the rim but could not score forcing the game into overtime.
The Ladybirds hope to regroup Tuesday at St. Henry. Game time is 7:30 p.m.