Story Matters

Story Matters

THE Official HHS Football Site

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Ladybirds leave impression on Senior Night

PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, Highlands junior McKenzie Leigh scored two of her 16 points in the final game of the regular season Friday against Simon Kenton. The Ladybirds won 56-34 to conclude the regular season at 27-3.

Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter

They finished the regular season with an impressive win and set the new mark.

The only surprising thing about it was how sound it came. The Highlands Ladybirds built a double-digit lead in the first quarter, pulled away in the second quarter and continually pulled away for a 56-34 non-region win over the Simon Kenton Lady Pioneers (22-4) on Friday on Senior Night.

Highlands finished the regular season at 27-3. The Ladybirds eclipsed the mark for the most wins in a season since Jaime Walz-Richey became head coach in 2002. Highlands finished 26-8 when starters Brianna Adler and Haley Coffey were freshmen two years ago. That team lost to eventual state runner-up Notre Dame in the 9th Region title game at the Bank of Kentucky Center.

Simon Kenton came into the game shorthanded as starter Madi Meier has not played the last couple games. Meijer averaged 11.9 points per game. Veteran Lady Pioneer Head Coach Jeffrey Stowers seemed so frustrated with the starters that he pulled them in the middle of the third quarter and let the reserves finish the game.

But that allowed Highlands seniors Kristyn Lukjan and Whitney Quillen to do some memorable things in their final home games. They started along with fellow seniors Alex Combs and Lydia Graves. The two scored a bucket each and Lukjan had four rebounds.

“All 14 of my girls are like family to me. They’re my daughters,” Walz-Richey said. “I want them on their special night to be able to get some playing time, especially Whitney and Kristyn who don’t get the amount of playing time that the other two do. That’s always a good thing on Senior Night.”

The two played just more than 14 minutes each. Lukjan helped out in the rebounding cause as Highlands won that battle, 28-27. No one had more than three rebounds for Simon Kenton.

“I thought it was real sweet,” Lukjan said. “The whole team tried to get me points because I struggle scoring, but it was a team effort. We came out and won. Rebounding was a key focus.”

Graves and Combs had big games in their final time on the home floor. Graves had 11 points and four rebounds with Combs scoring 10 to go with five rebounds and four assists. Highlands used its balance to counter Simon Kenton’s tough man-to-man defense. Graves and Combs made two three-pointers each.

“We rely on our three-pointers so they rely on me driving and kicking to (players like) Lydia, Brianna, Alex,” Coffey said. “When they play help defense like that, it really helps us. If they don’t (help out on defense), people like Zoie (Barth), Whitney (Quillen) and I can drive. If they do stop us, we have the deadly threes in the corners. It’s a good combination.”

With Meier out, Highlands 6-foot-1-inch junior McKenzie Leigh created a mismatch in the paint. She scored 16 points and had three assists.

Simon Kenton senior forward Maggi Bosse tried to equal her with a team-high nine points. But she picked up her fourth foul on a technical foul with 4:02 left in the third. It came along the sidelines when she and Leigh chased after a loose ball.

“McKenzie really stepped up, played well and took advantage of the mismatch we had inside,” Walz-Richey said. “We executed the plays we wanted and she finished them.”

Highlands contained freshman guard Allison Niece. She had just one point after entering the game averaging 16.1.

The Ladybirds made 19-of-49 shots for 39 percent, including 7-of-23 three-point tries for 30 percent. They also made 11-of-13 free-throw tries for 85 percent.

Highlands again forced a lot of turnovers. The Lady Pioneers had 21 turnovers to 11 for the Ladybirds. Highlands had 14 steals to four for Simon Kenton.

The Lady Pioneers made 12-of-34 shots for 35 percent, including 2-of-7 three-point tries for 29 percent. They also made 8-of-12 free throws for 67 percent.

Highlands distributed the ball better making 12 assists to two for Simon Kenton. The Ladybirds outscored the Lady Pioneers, 1.07-.66 in points per possession.

Combs made a three-pointer to start the game before Simon Kenton scored five in a row to go up 5-3. That was the Lady Pioneers’ only lead as Highlands scored nine straight and finished the quarter with six in a row to go up 18-8.

Highlands led 21-14 in the second quarter before going on a 9-0 run to go up 30-14 at halftime. Graves had a three-pointer and jumper in the left post during that run.

Simon Kenton did cut the margin to 30-19 to start the third quarter. But Combs answered with a triple and Highlands went on a 9-0 run after Bosse’s technical to go up 44-20 with 2:30 left in the third.

The Ladybirds led 48-23 entering the fourth quarter. Izzy Schultz made a three-pointer with 58 seconds left for Highlands.

Highlands enters the postseason as the top seed in the 36th District Tournament. The Ladybirds take on either Bellevue or Dayton on Tuesday in the semifinals at Newport. Game time is 6 p.m.

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