Tuesday, February 6, 2018
Another Huge Road Region Win for Bluebirds
The Covington Holmes Lady Bulldogs had won at least 29 games in each of the previous three seasons going a combined 88-14 and winning the last two 9th Region championships. Holmes lost to 11th Region champion Franklin County, 51-36 in the state semifinals down the road at BB&T Arena in Highland Heights and to 12th Region champion Mercer County, 59-55 in the state quarterfinals in 2016.
But last year, Highlands (19-6 overall) beat Holmes, 62-49 in Fort Thomas to snap the Lady Bulldogs' 27-game winning streak against 9th Region competition and hoped for another big win this time around. The Bluebirds again made the plays down the stretch to hold off the Lady Bulldogs (14-7) by a 44-40 count Tuesday.
That marked the eighth straight win for the Bluebirds, who improved to 9-3 against the 9th Region. Holmes had won 23 straight at home until Campbell County, ranked fourth in the latest Associated Press poll, came to Covington and left with a 74-72 win on Jan. 29.
Highlands had lost the previous two times at Holmes. The Bluebirds last beat the Lady Bulldogs in Covington, 55-48 on Feb. 8, 2012.
The Bluebirds again saw all nine players that took the floor contribute. Junior Zoie Barth scored 15 points making 8-of-11 free throws to go with nine rebounds, three assists and two steals. Junior guard Chloe Jansen also nearly had a double-double with nine points, 10 rebounds, two assists and two steals. Freshman post Rory O'Hara added eight points.
Highlands made 12-of-39 shots for 31 percent including 3-of-13 from three-point range for 23 percent. The Bluebirds held Holmes to 14-of-55 from the field for 26 percent including 4-of-28 from three-point range for 14 percent and edged the hosts, 36-35 in the rebounding battle. Junior Hanna Buecker and sophomore Piper Macke made crucial three-pointers for the Bluebirds.
"We knew that every possession matters in every game, especially at Holmes," Jansen said. "They wanted to speed us up then the wanted to slow us down sometimes. Our mental toughness played into what we wanted to do each possession."
The Bluebirds shot free throws better making 17-of-25 for 68 percent after making just 11-of-25 for 44 percent in the win at Dixie Heights on Friday. Holmes had 16 fouls to 15 for Highlands and made 8-of-11 free throws for 73 percent. Richey said the team goal is to shoot 70 percent from the free-throw line.
Holmes had three players averaging in double figures. Senior Tyrah McClendon-Englemon scored 22 points on 7-of-14 shooting and took all 11 Holmes free throws. She came in averaging just under 18 per game. Senior Laila Johnson and junior Kamari Graham came in averaging around 12 per game. But Highlands limited Johnson to eight points and Graham to three.
"We slowed it down. We played a zone. They played some zone, too," said Jaime Walz-Richey, Highlands Head Coach. "When Englemon wanted to score, she scored. But then we had to make an adjustment and put Zoie (Barth) in the middle and Zoie did a great job making the stops with her in the middle. Thankfully, they didn't shoot the ball extremely well."
Highlands had 11 turnovers, eight assists and five steals compared to seven turnovers, four assists and four steals for Holmes. Neither team had any blocked shots.
Highlands led 15-14 at halftime. The Bluebirds led 28-23 entering the fourth quarter. Highlands built a nine-point advantage after a Buecker triple at 34-25 with 6:40 remaining. But Holmes fought back and went ahead 40-39 with 1:18 to go after two Englemon free throws.
But Highlands took the lead back 16 seconds later on an O'Hara score before Barth recorded a steal and Jansen made two free throws to put the Bluebirds up 43-40 with 41 seconds left. Holmes missed four shots before junior Ashley Hayes grabbed the crucial rebound for the Bluebirds with seven seconds left and passed it to Barth. Barth made 1-of-2 free throws with three seconds left to make the final score.
Highlands plays host to Conner (17-7) on Friday. Game time is 7:30 p.m.
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