|Ladybirds snap losing skid with in-county road win|
|PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, DWCPhoto.com. Highlands senior Emma Little (30) fires up a shot in a recent game. Little scored eight points to help the Ladybirds down Campbell County, 55-46 on Saturday.|
The Highlands Ladybirds came into the game at Campbell County Middle School on its first two-game losing streak of the season and wanted to put an end to it. Behind a combination of challenging defense and nice offensive execution, Highlands finished the first half on a 10-0 run and held on for a 55-46 non-region victory over the Campbell County Lady Camels on Saturday.
"It feels good," said Chloe Jansen, Highlands sophomore forward. "It was a team win so it was exciting for us. We worked together. We figured things out in practice and we just worked on what we needed to work on to get the win (Saturday)."
Both teams are 14-6 on the season. Highlands has won four of the last five meetings dating back to the 2012-13 campaign against the Lady Camels dropping just a 32-25 decision in Fort Thomas to Campbell County on Dec. 21, 2015 last season at the Highlands Middle School. Highlands finishes the regular season 4-1 against 10th Region competition including three wins over 37th District opponents.
"After our two losses, we went back to basics on Friday in practice on defense," said Jaime Walz-Richey, Highlands Head Coach. "I thought the girls did a great job on defense (Saturday). I thought we did what we had to do for the most part to win."
Campbell County won the 10th Region Tournament last year then beat Trimble County (48-33) in the first round of the state tournament before losing a tight 41-38 decision to Franklin County in the Elite Eight. But Campbell County graduated five seniors off that team leaving third-year Head Coach Beau Menefee, a 1991 Highlands graduate and former Highlands boys assistant, and staff with a young team this season with no seniors. Campbell County started three freshmen and two juniors against Highlands.
"We just weren't aggressive," Menefee said. "We knew what they had more or less. I think our girls match up with them very well. They just didn't have very good games. (The Ladybirds) were hungry and they were alley dogs (Saturday). They came in here and desperately needed a victory and we didn't respond the same way until it was too late."
Highlands once again saw the guard tandem of senior Jenna Martin and sophomore Zoie Barth continue their consistent play scoring near their season averages. Barth made 6-of-13 shots on her way to 18 points to go with two assists and a steal with Martin making 7-of-11 shots on her way to 16 points in addition to a steal. The two made two three-pointers each.
Three-point shooting turned out to be a big difference. Highlands made 20-of-39 shots for 51 percent including 7-of-14 from three-point land for 50 percent and 8-of-13 free throws for 62 percent. Campbell County made 18-of-37 shots for 49 percent including 4-of-10 from downtown for 40 percent and 6-of-9 free throws for 67 percent.
Highlands seniors Emma Little and Lauren Epperson followed with eight and seven points respectively. Little made two three-pointers and Epperson hit one. Epperson scored all seven of her points in the fourth quarter.
"We told them after the game when we're moving on offense, we're really good," Richey said. "So many teams try to take away Zoie and Jenna. The other three saw they can take the ball to the basket and have the confidence to shoot too."
Highlands won the rebounding battle, 24-15 limiting the hosts to just two offensive rebounds. Junior Brooke Dill came off the bench to lead the Ladybirds with six rebounds and three assists.
Campbell County played without injured junior forward Alexis Keeton and 5-foot-10-inch sophomore center Tamara Wells. Menefee said their return soon should help the Lady Camels with the rebounding issues.
Highlands mixed up its defenses trapping at various places and contesting numerous Lady Camel shots and passes. Highlands grabbed six steals on eight Campbell County turnovers and turned it over 11 times on four Lady Camel steals. Jansen and Little recorded two steals each to lead the Ladybirds.
Campbell County junior guard Taylor Clos and junior MacKenzie Schwarber entered the game leading the Lady Camels in scoring. Clos scored three points below her season average with 19 points on 8-of-13 shooting from the field and Schwarber scored just below her average with 12 points. Schwarber joined the Campbell County 1,000-point career scoring club with a jumper with 3:40 left in the game. Clos scored nine of those points in the fourth quarter.
Campbell County led 10-5 in the fourth quarter after Mallory Holbrook hit a two and three-pointer. But Highlands came back to take an 11-10 lead after two Martin scores before Haley Turner put in an offensive rebound with 25 seconds left to put the Lady Camels up 12-11 after one.
Martin hit a three-pointer from the right wing to put Highlands up for good at 14-12. Martin hit another one a little more than a minute later after Barth made two free throws to give Highlands a 19-12 advantage with 4:48 left in the half.
Dill put the Ladybirds up 21-15 with an offensive rebound before Clos and Schwarber scored to trim the lead to 21-19 with 3:17 left in the second quarter. That's when Barth took over scoring eight points on two three-pointers and Martin put in an offensive rebound in transition to put Highlands up 31-19 at halftime. Barth's second triple came with two seconds left after she picked off a Campbell County outlet pass after a rebound and swished it from the left wing. Martin and Barth had 12 points each in the first half.
"It was a huge, huge play," Menefee said of Barth's triple before halftime. "I had someone in there I usually don't have in there. That didn't work out for us."
Highlands extended its lead to 15 at 36-21 with 5:45 left in the third quarter after Little made another three-pointer. Campbell County cut it to eight before Barth answered with a jumper in the middle of the paint. The Ladybirds led 42-31 after three after Jansen scored on an offensive rebound.
The Ladybirds promptly built their largest lead at 17 points after an Epperson triple and two free throws at 49-32 with 5:14 left in the game. The three-pointer came when Dill grabbed an offensive rebound and found her at the right wing.
"I think we were a little more aggressive on defense," Dill said. "We got back to the basics and we were able to go after rebounds. We have to be selfless, be willing to make the extra pass to get the open look. That's how we win games."
Campbell County made things interesting while Highlands missed three free throws. Clos scored with 35.7 seconds left in the game to trim the margin to 51-43 before Epperson made two free throws. Following a Holbrook triple, Barth made two free throws with 13.6 seconds left in the game to make the final score.
Highlands does not play again until Friday at St. Henry (8-9). Game time is 7:30 p.m. in Erlanger.