Bluebird Boys to Play for Third Place in Florida Tournament
|PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. Highlands senior Chloe Jansen (34) looks to make a pass against Conner on Saturday.|
Highlands (11-3) led 46-41 at that point against the host Conner Lady Cougars (13-1) in the championship game of the LaRosa's Holiday Classic. But the Bluebirds could not hold onto the lead as Conner tied it with two seconds left and outscored Highlands, 8-0 in overtime to win the game by a 54-46 score.
Conner has won four in a row in the series including all three meetings last year. Conner beat Highlands by the same score in the 9th Region Quarterfinals last year before losing 55-43 to Covington Holmes in the region semifinals. Highlands last beat Conner, 54-36 on Dec. 13, 2016.
Senior Savannah Jordan made a three-point shot from the right wing with 27 seconds left to start the Conner rally. After missing the front end of the one-and-one, senior forward Maddie Burcham put back an offensive rebound with two seconds left to tie the game at 46 after regulation. Senior guard Joy Strange made five free throws in overtime to lift help Conner to the win.
"We can't let one bad play make a domino effect and I thought we did that," said Jaime Walz-Richey, Highlands Head Coach. "When we went into overtime, we looked defeated. As a coach, I should have got them going, believing because we had a great chance to win. It was a good game. We came out and made some mistakes in overtime also."
Conner and Highlands have always strived for balance offensively. Both teams saw six players score. Jordan led the Lady Cougars with 15 points with Strange scoring 12 and senior guard Courtney Hurst scoring 10. But junior center Tyra Murphy came off the bench and scored 10 for Conner including a key overtime bucket.
Jansen and senior guard Zoie Barth paced the way for Highlands to grab a 38-33 lead after three quarters as the Bluebirds outscored the Lady Cougars, 13-3 in the third quarter. Barth led the way with 17 points to go with five rebounds and an assist and Jansen had 12.
Barth has surpassed the 2,000-point plateau for her career. She's one of four players in Highlands history to accomplish that feat. Richey scored 4,948 points in her career. That total is still good for second for both boys and girls in Kentucky history behind Jenkins' Whitney Creech's career total of 5,527 points.
"We just told the girls we've had a great two weeks," Richey said. "Regional championship trophies aren't won in December. We need to look at what we did well, what we didn't do so well and learn from it and that we can't make these same mistakes come March."
Conner hurt Highlands in rebounding, 34-22. Burcham led Conner with nine rebounds and Jansen had six to lead the Lady Cougars.
The Lady Cougars made 19-of-50 shots for 38 percent including 6-of-24 three-point tries for 25 percent and 10-of-12 free throws for 83 percent. The Bluebirds made 15-of-40 shots for 38 percent including 9-of-19 three-point shots for 47 percent and 7-of-8 free throws for 88 percent.
Conner has won this tournament three years in a row including a 51-41 in last year's tournament title game. Highlands last won it during the 2015-2016 season.
Highlands had nine assists, no blocked shots, five steals, 12 turnovers and 14 personal fouls. Conner had six assists, one blocked shot, 13 turnovers and 11 fouls. Junior Piper Macke had three assists to lead the Bluebirds.
Highlands plays host to Newport Central Catholic (8-4) in a 36th District battle Friday in Fort Thomas. Game time is 7:30 p.m.
Lexington (South Carolina) 57, Highlands 49:
The Bluebirds (8-4 overall) lost against the undefeated Wildcats (14-0) in the semifinals of the Hilton Sandestin Beach Blowout at Freeport High (Florida).
Senior Ben Sisson led Highlands with a double-double of 16 points and 10 rebounds making 8-of-10 shots. He also blocked four shots. Sophomore point guard Sam Vinson followed with nine points.
Highlands had no answer for Lexington's Mason Carver. Carver made 10-of-15 shots on his way to 25 points. Carver also had seven rebounds as the Wildcats won that battle, 30-23.
Overall, Highlands made 18-of-41 shots for 44 percent including 5-of-20 three-point shots for 25 percent and 8-of-12 free throws for 67 percent. Lexington hit 23-of-47 shots for 49 percent including 1-of-8 three-point tries for 13 percent and 10-of-14 free throws for 72 percent.
Highlands had 15 assists, four steals, four blocked shots, 15 fouls and 16 turnovers. Lexington had 10 assists, no blocked shots, 14 fouls and 10 turnovers. Junior Jacob Brass led the Bluebirds with five assists.
Highlands takes on Knox Central (10-2) from the 13th Region in the third place game Monday. Game time is 4 p.m.