|PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, DWCPhoto.com. Highlands sophomore guard Jacob Noe takes a shot in the game at Newport Central Catholic on Tuesday.|
Highlands hoped the momentum could help upset the Newport Central Catholic Thoroughbreds in Tuesday's 36th District battle on The Hill. But the Thoroughbreds pulled away for the crucial victory, 70-48. NewCath (16-3 overall, 3-0 district) has won 12 in a row over Highlands and 34 straight against district opponents.
NewCath had won three in a row and nine of its last 10 games entering the contest. The Thoroughbreds have played the Bluebirds in between winning the All "A" 9th Region Tournament and the All "A" State Tournament four straight years. The Thoroughbreds are hoping to win the All "A" State Tournament the fourth straight year.
Both teams played a post inside and four players outside with the crucial match-up being Highlands junior post Kyle Finfrock and senior Bo Hebel on NewCath's versatile senior post and Mr, Kentucky Basketball candidate Ben Weyer. Highlands won the rebounding battle, 34-32 but did not shoot the ball consistently. NewCath had dominated the paint in recent years with the likes of Drew McDonald (now at Northern Kentucky University) and Jake Schulte (South Carolina-Upstate).
It also did not help that Highlands allowed some easy NewCath scores on half-court turnovers. The Thoroughbreds took 60 shots and made 23 for 38 percent including 9-of-21 from three-point range for 43 percent. NewCath also made 15-of-17 free throws for 88 percent.
"They tried to speed us up and threw a lot of traps at us," said Kevin Listerman, Highlands Head Coach. "We handled it at times, but not enough for 32 minutes. But our kids battled and I'm really proud of the way we handled things."
Highlands hit 17-of-48 shots for 35 percent including 4-of-11 from outside for 36 percent. The Bluebirds also made 10-of-15 free throws for 67 percent.
Weyer scored 12. But sophomore guard Brennan Hall and junior guard Luke Moeves have emerged this year. Hall scored 23 and Moeves added 10 in the win.
"We did a very good job defending them," Listerman said. "They're a very good ballclub. (Weyer) demands a lot of attention. They start with him. They have some good complimentary players. They stepped up and made shots."
Highlands did not have anyone score in double figures. Junior forward Luke LaFrange led the way with nine points on three three-pointers and Finfrock had eight. Finfrock also pulled down 15 rebounds.
NewCath scored the game's first five points and never trailed the entire game. The Thoroughbreds led 14-6 after the first quarter and 27-17 at halftime. NewCath scored the first five points of the third quarter and the lead shrunk to 11 just one time in the third quarter.
The Bluebirds need to win at Bellevue on Friday to earn the third seed in the district tournament in February and avoid a potential semifinal game against the Thoroughbreds like last year. Game time is 7:30 p.m.