|Bluebirds Win with Balanced Attack|
|PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. Highlands juniors Alyssa Harris (4) and Megan Calme (30) get in position defensively in the win over Roger Bacon on Monday.|
The balance pleased the coaching staff more than anything.
With almost everyone healthy, the Highlands Bluebirds girls basketball team (7-12 overall) put four players in double figures in a 50-40 win over the St. Bernard (Ohio) Roger Bacon Spartans (5-15). Highlands equaled its longest winning streak of the season with its second straight win.
"It's great to see all these girls stepping up, playing to their potential and doing whatever the team needs them to do," said Jaime Walz-Richey, Highlands Head Coach. "There in the beginning, we took some lumps because my younger girls got great experience. It's great to see we have so many players we can put in the game."
Roger Bacon's head coach is former Highlands assistant Joe Finnegan. Leah Schaefer, a 2013 Highlands alum, is one of his assistants. Roger Bacon has recorded winning records in each of the past five seasons. That includes a 20-8 record in 2020 that resulted in a Greater Catholic League Co-Ed, Sectional and District championships in Ohio's second-largest Division II. Roger Bacon lost 41-38 to Dayton (Ohio) Carroll in the region championship game.
Highlands 6-foot-2-inch freshman center Marissa Green led the way scoring 13 points to go with six rebounds. Green hit 4-of-8 field-goal attempts and 5-of-7 free throws.
"It's pretty tough. You have to pretty physical (inside)," Green said. "If they get in your head, you just have to be the bigger person. We're rebounding and protecting the ball better. We're not losing the ball and giving easy lay-ups up and we're closing out and not giving up easy three-pointers."
Things opened up down low because the Bluebirds had a nice game shooting from outside making 7-of-15 three-point tries for 47 percent and 17-of-41 total for 41 percent. Highlands hit 9-of-14 free throws for 64 percent to go with 13 assists, four steals, 27 rebounds and 11 turnovers.
The three most-experienced guards combined to hit the seven three-pointers for Highlands. Senior Meg Gessner made three and two free throws on her way to 11 points. Junior Alyssa Harris and sophomore Laney Smith made two on their way to 10 points each. Smith hit one as time expired in the third quarter to put Highlands up 37-22 entering the fourth quarter.
Highlands built a 15-6 lead after the first quarter. That lead doubled to 26-13 at halftime. That allowed Highlands to go to a four-corner spread offense. Players such as eighth grader Kaylee Mills took good care of the ball.
"We push the ball and we cheer each other on," Mills said. "That makes it a better environment. It kind of says we trust each other. We pick each other up."
Roger Bacon made three three-pointers and 11-of-16 free throws for 69 percent. Junior forward Krystin McWhorter led the way scoring 15 points and junior guard Isabel Ernst scored 11. Richey credited the Bluebirds for rebounding well, especially the guards coming in to help Green and senior 6-1 center CC Shick. Gessner had five rebounds and four assists and Harris led Highlands with two steals.
The Spartans tried to get back in the game employing some zone and man full-court presses. Richey said the Bluebirds tried to new wrinkle in their press offense.
"We just wanted to see if they could execute it," Richey said. "We will learn from it and won't make the same mistakes."
Highlands travels to Boone County (2-19) on Thursday. Game time is 7:30 p.m.
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