|Highlands Handles Mason County|
|PHOTO: G. Michael Graham. Highlands seniors Jack Hegge (3) and Alex Starkey (32) slide over on defense in a recent game.|
The Bluebirds have nine seniors on a squad that has not won 16 games in a season since going 21-9 during the 2008-09 season. Highlands also clinched its first winning season since the 2009-10 season.
Three seniors reached double digits in the win led by post Ben Sisson's 20 points to go with five rebounds and five blocked shots. Jack Hegge finished with 14 and Alex Starkey had 12.
"It's a testament to this group of seniors and their unselfishness," said Kevin Listerman, Highlands Head Coach. "Some of them said to me, 'Coach. Let somebody else start. I don't have to start.' The bottom line is they want to win and that's the number one goal. They are as happy for somebody else's success as they are their own. The biggest thing from my end was to see them be focused and to play as hard as we could. Any night, you can live with the results if you give your best effort. I thought all of our kids did that (Tuesday). We were able to stretch the lead out and win comfortably."
The Bluebirds finished with 1.23 points per possession to .9 for the Royals. Highlands made 29-of-49 shots for 59 percent including 6-of-12 three-point tries for 50 percent and 10-of-22 free throws for 45 percent.
"Obviously, everybody got to play. Five of the seniors started, which is awesome because it shows how competitive we are," said Grady Cramer, Highlands senior. "It shows how much work we've put in over the years."
Highlands also had 19 assists, six steals, five blocked shots, 12 fouls and 11 turnovers. Senior Ryan Leigh and junior Jacob Brass had three assists each. Leigh also scored nine points.
Mason County senior guard Jaylen Lofton came into the game averaging 14.8 points per game. Highlands held him to 10 points. Junior forward Xylon Frey led the Royals with 13 points.
The Royals made 22-of-58 shots for 38 percent including 2-of-17 three-point shots for 12 percent and 12-of-18 free throws for 67 percent. Mason County also had 12 assists, seven steals, one blocked shot, 20 fouls and eight turnovers.
"They've got a couple nice athletes. That Jaylen Lofton is a capable scorer and physical guard," Listerman said. "Xylon Frey is about as athletic as anyone we've played against all year. They play hard. They can cause you some problems if you're not ready to go. Our guys responded. We were very efficient and were able to dictate the game to them."
Highlands led 33-25 at halftime. The Bluebirds led 48-39 entering the fourth quarter.
Highlands plays at Lloyd Memorial on Friday. Game time is 7:30 p.m.