|Bluebirds Handle Rebels on Road|
|G. Michael Graham Photo. The Highlands Bluebirds boys basketball stands for the National An.them at Boone County on Thursday. Highlands recorded a convincing 77-28 win to open the season|
From the opening tip, the Bluebirds controlled all aspects of the game offensively and defensively. Highlands recorded the most lopsided victory since Kevin Listerman became head coach in 2013 with a 77-28 9th Region victory.
"Our kids have put in a great deal of effort and they have a lot of confidence in each other," Listerman said. "They want to win as a group and that's what is really special about them in terms of their unselfishness. Even though it's been short with the (football) guys, it's been a great start to practice and it carried over. We talked about playing with effort and focus and we did that, especially through the first three quarters."
The previous high came last year by 46 points in a 75-29 win over Dayton last season. The Bluebirds snapped a two-game losing streak in the series against the Rebels. They'd lost six of the last seven meetings against the Rebels since last winning at Boone County, 62-59 on Jan. 23, 2010.
Fourteen different Bluebirds saw at least three minutes, 34 seconds of action and all but one scored. The Bluebirds displayed the inside-outside balance that has not been consistent in years. Senior Will Salmon led Highlands with 11 points. The Bluebirds made sure the Rebels could not double senior Ben Sisson in the paint.
"It shows our physicality and what all the weight programs do for Highlands," Salmon said. "It shows that we're not afraid. All our guys are good. We have a bunch of little things we can do to contribute like Coach Listerman always talks about."
Senior Alex Starkey and junior Jacob Brass followed Salmon with 10 points each. Sophomore point guard Sam Vinson scored nine and Sisson had eight.
Highlands used its size advantage in the paint to win the rebounding battle, 37-30 and force 12 turnovers on 10 steals. The Bluebirds had just five turnovers. Starkey had five steals with Sisson, Salmon, senior Ryan Leigh and Grady Cramer grabbing four rebounds each.
Highlands started the game with full-court pressure. But the Bluebirds made the necessary adjustments.
"We looked for different opportunities and certainly having Ben on the back end of it makes it all really look good," Listerman said. "We gave them some keys to look for in the way that (the Rebels) run their offense. We did a good job of recognizing it and taking some things away for them."
The Bluebirds cut well against the Rebel defense with 16 assists. Salmon led the way there with four.
Highlands also blocked six shots to none for Boone County. Sisson led the way there with three.
Highlands travels to Ryle on Friday. Game time is 7:30 p.m.
Highlands 61, St. Henry 45:
Highlands led 27-20 at halftime before pulling away in the third quarter in the season opener.
The Bluebirds forced 32 St. Henry turnovers on 20 steals. Seniors Zoie Barth and Ashley Hayes led the way with four each. Senior Chloe Jansen had three steals. Highlands had 15 turnovers on eight Lady Crusader steals.
"We had first-game jitters without a doubt," said Jaime Walz-Richey, Highlands Head Coach. "Once we calmed down at halftime, the girls came out much better and we outscored them, 16-9 in the third quarter."
Barth and Jansen also led Highlands in scoring. Barth made 7-of-17 shots and 9-of-10 free throws including two three-pointers on her way to 25 points surpassing the 1,800 mark for her career. Barth has 1,804 career points. Jansen scored 15 making 6-of-9 shots.
Richey credited Barth and Jansen for setting the tone in practice since they've been on varsity the longest of any current player. Barth has said a balance between praising teammates for doing things right and correcting them will go a long way toward the team's success.
"I think everyone looks up to Zoie more because she's been in rotation since the seventh grade," Jansen said. "(The balance) is actually working because everyone is catching on to what we need to do and what we don't need to do on offense and defense. When it comes to defense, we almost have to be like a unit on help side and turnovers will come on defense. Then the pressure won't be as hard on offense if everyone does her job."
Senior Chison Iloegbunam scored her 1,000th career point to lead St. Henry (0-2). She scored 21 making 9-of-15 shots and added 10 rebounds for a double-double.
Highlands made 19-of-59 shots for 32 percent including 4-of-24 from three-point range for 17 percent and 19-of-26 free throws for 73 percent. St. Henry made 17-of-46 shots for 37 percent including 11-of-13 free throws for 85 percent and no free throws.
St. Henry did win the rebounding battle, 38-33. Senior Hanna Buecker had six to lead the Bluebirds.
The Bluebirds take on New Carlisle (Ohio) Tecumseh on Saturday at 10:30 a.m. at Dixie Heights in the Hoops for Harvest event.
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