Saturday, January 14, 2017
Gratifying District Wins
Host Highlands (13-4 overall, 4-0 district) handled the Newport Ladycats, 75-32 to polish off a fourth straight undisputed run to the top seed in the 36th District Tournament at Dayton in February. The Ladybirds outscored the four district opponents, 267-128 for an average of about 67-32. None of them scored more than 33 points against Highlands.
"We always respect all opponents," said Jaime Walz-Richey, Highlands Head Coach. "Our kids know the importance of these games and our focus is to be the number one seed in the district."
Highlands saw all 12 players score. Jenna Martin made 8-of-12 shots including 5-of-9 from three-point range on her way to 22 points and sophomore Zoie Barth scored 11 with Emma Little scoring nine to go with four assists. Barth made four assists and three steals and Martin added three assists and two steals.
The Ladybirds won the rebounding battle, 42-34. Lauren Epperson led Highlands with seven rebounds and also had three steals and a blocked shot.
"(Highlands Assistant Coach) Bert (Richey) always tells us that if you win the game in rebounding, you'll win the game overall," said Rachel Vinson, Highlands senior forward. "So in practice, we just worked on our boxing out and worked on getting stronger so we can put up more rebounds than the other team. It's a matter of putting your body into them and pushing them all the way out and not just a few feet. We have to get the big, tall girls out of the lane, which opens up the lane for other people to get the rebound."
Highlands had 17 assists total, 17 steals and just 11 turnovers. Newport (5-11, 0-3) recorded one assist, six steals and had 20 turnovers.
Highlands made 27-of-58 shots for 47 percent including 12-of-29 from three-point range for 41 percent and 9-of-17 free throws for 53 percent. Newport hit 10-of-46 shots for 22 percent including 2-of-12 from three-point range for 17 percent and 10-of-19 free throws for 53 percent.
Highlands travels to Covington Holy Cross (12-5) on Tuesday. Game time is 7:30 p.m.
Highlands 65, Dayton 52:
The Bluebirds (9-9 overall) are at. 500 for the first time this season with the win over the host Greendevils (4-13, 1-2 district).
But more importantly, they are 2-0 in 36th District action and 6-3 in 9th Region action. Highlands had not won two district seed games in a season since going 2-2 during the 2013-14 campaign and earning the third seed in the district tournament. The Bluebirds beat Newport in the district semifinals that year on their way to the program's last appearance in the 9th Region Tournament.
"Any district win is a big win regardless of who you're playing because it sets up the post-season tournament," said Kevin Listerman, Highlands Head Coach. "We've gotten a lot done in the last eight days. To have a district game at the end of that on a Saturday night coming off the double-overtime win on the road, I was really pleased with the effort that our kids put forward. It's huge for us to continue to find ways to win."
Highlands will not be playing on the first day of the tournament this year with the win. The Bluebirds finished 1-3 in district play the last two seasons to draw the fourth seed in the district tournament. They'd proceed to beat Dayton in the 4-5 game before losing to top-seeded Newport Central Catholic in the semifinals to end the season each time.
"You can tell the difference from the beginning of the year to now," said Brent Angel, Highlands senior center. "We're all coming together really well and we're pretty confident we can do good things in the district and hopefully, the region."
Junior Jacob Noe led Highlands with 15 points. Kyle Finfrock followed with 11 points and Griffin Huber had 10.
The Bluebirds shot well from the free-throw line making 16-of-20 for 80 percent. Dayton made 14-of-18 for 78 percent. Highlands made 20-of-42 shots for 48 percent including 9-of-17 from three-point range for 53 percent and Dayton hit 17-of-43 shots for 40 percent including 6-of-11 from three-point range for 55 percent.
"We shot the ball well from three, particularly early," Listerman said. "Jacob Noe hit three first-quarter three's and really got us out of the gate well. We did a good job getting the ball inside to Kyle again. They were very, very physical with him and for the most part, Kyle handled it and did a good job. We knocked some free throws down in the early part of the fourth quarter and got the lead to 19 with about three or four minutes to go then handled the situation from there on out."
Highlands travels to Campbell County (16-1) on Tuesday. Game time is 7:30 p.m.