That was the case in this one even though the Highlands Bluebirds girls basketball team (25-4 overall) led from the first basket just 14 seconds in until the very end in a 48-38 non-region victory over the Simon Kenton Lady Pioneers (17-10). Highlands reached 25 victories in a season for the first time since going 30-4 during the 2014-15 season.
This marked the second win of the season for Highlands over Simon Kenton. The Bluebirds beat the Lady Pioneers, 47-41 in the semifinals of the Traditional Bank Holiday Classic at Lexington Catholic on Dec. 22.
Highlands Head Coach Jaime Walz-Richey said rebounding would be huge in this game and the Bluebirds won it, 30-29. Senior Zoie Barth led the Bluebirds with eight in addition to her 16 points, four assists and three steals.
"They were very physical," Richey said. "We're fortunate we can play different types of games. (Tuesday) was a slow it down type of game. When we needed a run in the fourth quarter, we were able to get some lay-ups."
Sophomore Rory O'Hara led Highlands with 17 points making 7-of-10 shots. O'Hara had some lay-ups late in the game when Simon Kenton went to a run-and-jump pressure defense.
Highlands led 40-30 entering the fourth quarter. The Bluebirds led by as much as 15 points. But the Bluebirds had 12 turnovers to 10 for the Lady Pioneers.
"That's one thing we didn't do a very good job," Richey said. "We had some bad turnovers in the fourth quarter. We've told them all year long dead ball turnovers are a lot better than live. We had some live turnovers that shouldn't have happened in the fourth quarter. We have to do a better job taking care of the basketball when it's crunch time."
The Bluebirds finished with 12 assists to three for the Lady Pioneers. Senior Chloe Jansen led Highlands with five assists. Both teams had seven steals and no blocked shots.
"I think we are really good at picking up each other's slack," said Piper Macke, Highlands junior guard. "(Even though) we had some turnovers, defensive lapses or whatever, there were always people there talking to me. On offense, we were cutting most of the time. That's why we were getting so many open looks. It's a team effort."
Highlands hit 20-of-47 shots for 43 percent including 4-of-24 three-point tries for 17 percent and hit all four free throws. Simon Kenton made 17-of-53 shots for 32 percent including 3-of-20 three-point tries for 42 percent and 1-of-5 free throws for 20 percent. Highlands had 10 fouls to nine for Simon Kenton.
Senior Rachel Bush led Simon Kenton with 10 points and junior guard Morgan Stamper and freshman center Sereniti Webb scored eight each. The Bluebirds limited junior guard Maggie Jones to seven points and no three-pointers.
Highland takes on Beechwood (6-20) on Friday. Game time is 6 p.m.
Highlands 64, Covington Holy Cross 39:
The Bluebirds (18-10) ended yet another long losing streak against a 9th Region opponent on the road.
Highlands snapped an eight-game losing streak against the Indians (9-16) with strong defense. The last win against Holy Cross came in a 56-54 win in Covington on Feb. 8, 2011. The Bluebirds moved to 12-2 in region play with the victory.
The Bluebirds held the Indians to 15-of-43 shooting for 35 percent and 0-for-8 from three-point range. Holy Cross made 9-of-14 free throws for 64 percent and had three assists, six steals, two blocked shots, 19 fouls and 15 turnovers.
"I think we're getting a lot better at coming out in the second half and locking down defensively," said Alex Starkey, Highlands senior. "Just like football, you have to communicate whether it's getting through screens or switching. It just really depends. We're getting better with it each game."
Holy Cross saw two players score 10 points each. They were sophomore guards Jeremiah Hicks and Brandon McClendon.
Highlands made 21-of-42 shots including 5-of-10 from three-point range both for 50 percent and 17-of-25 free throws for 68 percent. The Bluebirds won the rebounding battle, 38-19 and had eight steals, 13 assists, four blocked shots, 13 fouls and 15 turnovers.
Senior post Ben Sisson again led the way with 21 points to go with nine rebounds, three blocked shots and two assists. Senior Will Salmon scored 10 points and tied senior Nate Roberts with eight rebounds each. Roberts also led Highlands with four assists and junior Jacob Brass had a team-high three steals.
"(Senior) Jack Hegge played really in the first half, gave us five points when we were struggling and kind of stemmed the tide for us a little bit," said Kevin Listerman, Highlands Head Coach. "Will Salmon hit two threes. He played very well. We got a lot of contributions from guys (Tuesday). In the end, it was the difference."
Holy Cross led 12-6 and 22-19 at halftime. But Highlands exploded for a 19-8 third quarter to go up 38-30 after three. The Bluebirds pulled away with a 26-9 run in the fourth quarter.
"We switched a little bit to our press and we got the game a little more up-tempo and dictated the flow of the game much more so in the second half than in the first half," Listerman said. "The other part is we didn't turn the ball over in the second half. It wasn't so much what they were doing. It was us not focusing and finishing plays. The defensive intensity picked up."
Highlands takes on Beechwood (24-4) on Friday. Game time is 8 p.m.