|Highlands Cheerleading Squad Places High in Nationals; Hoops Squads Post 9th Region Wins|
|Contributed Photo. The Highlands cheerleading squad placed 11th out of 41 teams in the Universal Cheerleading Association Nationals on Saturday in Orlando.|
|PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, DWCPhoto.com. Highlands senior forward Adam Uhlenbrock puts up a shot in a recent game.|
Highlands took 11th out of 41 teams in the nation at the Universal Cheerleading Association championships. The squad participated in the Small Varsity Co-Ed class that allows up to 20 individuals on the mat including no more than four boys.
"We didn't quite now how we'd do when we got down here," said Carly Leopold, Highlands Head Coach. "Everyone was going down with this just being a great experience. We didn't quite know what the competition would look like. After watching a few pre-lims (and) after we practiced on this place called the football field at the all-star resort where all the teams go to practice, we looked around and realized that we belonged there and that our skills are on par with all these other teams. We were just excited that our program was finally at a level that we knew that we could compete nationally."
The prelims saw the squads divided into parts A and B. The top two teams in each bracket qualified straight to the finals and 17 made the semifinals. Highlands earned the last of 13 spots in the finals scoring a 75.15 out of 100 points.
The team has eight seniors on it. The captains are Hannah Kimble, Ashlee Duncan and Laura Haupt. The other seniors are Macey Giberson, Amanda Reed, Zuri Carpenter, Valerie Mattingly and Sammie Studer.
"We had some caches come up and say it was not normal for bringing in new teams at naftionals to make it to finals," said Marti Fiedler, Highlands assistant and freshman cheerleading coach. "That's kind of huge."
Highlands participated in a region competition in November in Lexington and received a bid. This marks the first time in school history the program has gone to UCA Nationals.
Highlands 65, Lloyd Memorial 42:
On the line in this one came the chance to equal last year's win total.
The Bluebirds did not let it slip away handling the Lloyd Memorial Juggernauts to move to 12-12 on the season and 7-7 in 9th Region play. Lloyd fell to 9-15. Last year's team finished 12-17 losing 73-50 in the 36th District semifinals. The Bluebirds had not played in a week.
"Have a few days where we could reset and go back to some fundamentals and fine-tune some things was really important for us this week," said Kevin Listerman, Highlands Head Coach. "We were able to take a day off. I think we settled into some things and got a lot of contributions from a lot of guys. That's what we need."
All five Highlands starters had at at least seven points. Senior post Tyler Gulley and junior Alex Starkey scored 11 points each and junior post Ben Sisson scored 10. Senior guard Carl Schoellman made three three-pointers on his way to nine points and point guard Robby Gabbard scored seven.
"The size is definitely huge," Gulley said. "I think that's won us most of the games that we've won because not that many teams have two kids above 6-4. Our biggest problem so far this year has been scoring a lot. (Saturday) proved we can. If we go like this more often, then I think we're going to do some great things."
Highlands made 21-of-51 shots for 41 percent including 8-of-12 from three-point range for 67 percent. The Bluebirds also made 15-of-22 free throws for 68 percent.
Lloyd Memorial made 16-of-46 shots for 35 percent including 4-of-10 from three-point range for 40 percent and 6-of-16 free throws for 38 percent. Evan Molitor led the Juggernauts with 16 points.
Highlands won the rebounding battle, 37-31. Starkey led the Bluebirds with seven rebounds.
The Bluebirds also had 17 assists, three steals, six blocked shots and just six turnovers to 11 assists, one steal, no blocked shots and eight turnovers for the Juggernauts. Gabbard had nine assists and Gulley blocked four shots.
"We started with the bigs (Sisson and Gulley)," Listerman said. "Tyler set the tone on the first possession by pinning that shot on the backboard. We really fed off his energy. We did a great job moving the basketball. A lot of credit goes to Robby Gabbard. He did a very good job of just running our offense and keeping us in a very good flow."
Highlands led 36-15 at halftime. The Bluebirds never trailed in this one.
The junior varsity defeated Lloyd Memorial, 57-32. Ryan Leigh led Highlands with 20 points and Sam Vinson scored 10.
Highlands plays host to Covington Holy Cross (11-13) on Monday. Game time is 7:30 p.m.
Highlands 69, Boone County 49:
Highlands (20-7) earned its sixth straight 20-plus win season with a convincing 9th Region win in Florence quickly bouncing back from the loss to Conner on Friday.
The Bluebirds had struggled against the 33th District this year moving to just 2-4 against the teams in the Boone County school system. But the Lady Rebels (7-20) have had their issues under their fourth head coach in four years in Ryan Bowman. They have 12 region championships in program history.
Highlands junior Zoie Barth once again displayed her consistency with 28 points making 10-of-17 shots including 3-of-8 three-point tries and made all five free throws. She added seven assists, eight rebounds and three steals.
But Barth had plenty of help as usual. Junior forward Hanna Buecker had a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds to go with two assists and junior guard Chloe Jansen scored nine points to go with two assists. Richie hopes to see every player that gets in contribute in some way.
"When teams try to take away our good players, we have other players step up," said Jaime Walz-Richey, Highlands Head Coach. "They continue to do that and we're going to need that the rest of the year. It's also (about letting) our offense work and be patient, not always one pass and a shot. Let our sets work and get the best shots possible."
Highlands made 25-of-53 shots for 47 percent including 5-of-17 from three-point range for 29 percent and 14-of-21 free throws for 67 percent. The Bluebirds also won the rebounding battle, 34-29 and had 13 assists, seven steals and eight turnovers.
"We had to focus on what we're working on so we can get better as a whole," Buecker said. "We know each other really well and we know where going to be so it's easier for us to play together, tell each other what to do and tell each other when we're in the wrong spot. We help each other out."
Boone County saw senior guard Maleah Hirn lead the way with 20 points and senior guard Tessa Gieske score 12. The Lady Rebels made 17-of-49 shots for 35 percent including 7-of-18 from three-point range for 39 percent and 8-of-13 free throws for 62 percent. The Lady Rebels had 15 turnovers, six assists and three steals.
The Bluebirds led 19-11 after one quarter and just 31-27 at halftime. Highlands pulled away in the third quarter with a 27-10 run to go up 58-37 entering the fourth quarter.
"We weren't very happy with the first half offensively and defensively," Richey said. "In the third quarter, I stayed with the starting five for almost the whole quarter because they were playing great defensively and getting things done offensively."
Highlands travels to Simon Kenton (15-8) on Monday. Game time is 7:30 p.m.
Kavanagh commits to UK:
Highlands sophomore second baseman Ethan Kavanagh verbally committed to the University of Kentucky on Saturday. Kavanagh helped the Bluebirds to their third straight 9th Region title and a spot in the state quarterfinals last year.
Two senior pitchers have already signed to play NCAA Division I ball. Left-handed pitcher Drew Rom will be attending the University of Michigan and Hunter Dreves will attend the University of Tennessee.
The Bluebirds open their season on March 21 against Campbell County. Game time is 5 p.m. at Highland Park.
Eighth Grade wins NKMSAA Tournament:
The Bluebirds overcame an early 11-4 deficit to beat St. Pius, 49-35 for the first time in three years to capture the tournament title at Ockerman Middle School.
Tournament Most Valuable Player C.C. Shick led the way with All-Tournament selection Anna Greenwell led Highlands in scoring with Shick and Macy Hedenberg dominating the rebounding. Greenwell and guard Jade Rehberger came up huge breaking the St. Pius press with K.J. Toole and Megan Gessner playing solid defense and Toole also making free throws down the stretch. Other members of the team are Jasmine Brown, Arin Reedy, Carissa Armstrong, Ashley Coulter and Addison Mack.
Highlands finished the season 17-1 overall. The players head to high school with an impressive three-year record of 66-14 with most of the losses coming to St. Pius. The head coach is former Thomas More standout Oliva Huber.
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