|PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, DWCPhoto.com. Highlands freshman Zoie Barth drives on Newport Central Catholic's Alexis Pangallo in Saturday's game. Highlands won 45-44 to nab the top seed in the 36th District Tournament later in the year.|
That may be because teams generally need to score much higher than in the 40s to win at Newport Central Catholic. But the visiting Highlands Ladybirds (11-2 overall, 4-0 district) followed up their one-point 47-46 over the Conner Lady Cougars on Wednesday to win the LaRosa's Holiday Classic with a more important 45-44 win over the Thoroughbreds on Saturday in 36th District action and wrapped up the top seed in the district tournament.
"We talked at halftime that we had to take what they gave us," said Jaime Walz-Richey, Highlands Head Coach. "I thought we did a better job of that in the second half than the first half. In the first half, we weren't moving too well without the ball so we talked about that and I thought we did a better job of that in the second half. We looked scared out there at the beginning of the game. We didn't play loose and didn't play relaxed."
Even though Highlands has won five of the last six meetings against NewCath (6-5 overall, 2-1 district), the Ladybirds won for just the second time on The Hill since 1999. Highlands also won the regular season meeting there two years ago.
Highlands ended up making 14-of-35 shots for 40 percent including 4-of-13 from three-point range for 31 percent. The Ladybirds also made 13-of-16 free throws for about 82 percent. The only bad news is those misses were front ends of one-and-one opportunities late in the fourth quarter, but they did not cost the Ladybirds the game.
Senior McKenzie Leigh led Highlands with 16 points and six rebounds. She also had three blocked shots.
The Ladybirds did not have anyone else in double figures. But Lauren Epperson had eight points.
Highlands played at full strength for the first time this season. Point guards Zoie Barth and Haley Coffey returned from injuries in the game.
"I'm really proud of the team because even though we had an off night, we found a way to get the win," Coffey said. "A lot of our key players' shots weren't going in. My shots weren't going in. That's something that's good for the team in the future."
NewCath had two players score in double figures as Ansley Davenport had 13 and post Ajia Rice had 10 and five rebounds. But Highlands limited Davenport to 1-of-4 from three-point range. NewCath made 21-of-49 shots for 43 percent including 2-of-10 from three-point range. But the Thoroughbreds committed 14 fouls to just three for the Ladybirds missing both free-throw tries.
"We knew we had to know where Davenport was at all times," Richey said. "We did that for the most part. But we did give her some open looks and some put-back rebounds that we need to work on."
NewCath led 22-21 at halftime. Brianna Adler made a three-pointer to put Highlands up 24-22 before NewCath used a 10-0 run to go up 32-24 with 4:40 left in the quarter.
Highlands used a 7-0 run to trim the margin to 34-33 with 1:43 left in the quarter. Coffey hit a jumper before Leigh hit two free throws and converted a three-point play.
Following a Rice score, Leigh made a three-pointer at the top of the key before time expired to tie the game at 36 entering the fourth quarter. Highlands took the lead for good at the beginning of the final quarter with seven straight points.
Kiersten Clukey started with run with a three-pointer. Barth followed with two free throws before Izzy Schultz made a jumper on the left post after Coffey dribbled near half-court to make NewCath come out of its zone. That's when Coffey hit Leigh at the top of the key and Schultz cut to the basket for the score. That put Highlands up 43-36 with 5:23 left in the game.
"I think at the beginning, we came out slow and we underestimated them a lot," Adler said. "Throughout the game, someone cut to the middle. That's all you really have to do against the zone. We didn't do that in the first half. Then we got wide-open shots and threes and some points. It started working."
Two Lexy Breen scores trimmed the margin to 43-40 before Lauren Epperson and Davenport traded baskets. Highlands led 45-42 with two minutes left in the game.
With less than a minute to go, Highlands pulled a trap near half-court and Barth tipped the pass before recording a steal. Leigh also recorded a huge block in the final minute.
Rice hit a jumper with four seconds left. But NewCath could not foul Highlands in time to stop the clock.
Highlands plays host to Notre Dame on Tuesday. Game time is 7:30 p.m.
Finneytown (Ohio) 62, Highlands 59:
The Bluebirds (2-5 overall) dropped their third in a row in a tight contest Saturday. Kyle Finfrock led Highlands with 62 points and Bradley Greene scored 12.
Highlands opens up 36th District action Thursday at Newport. Game time is 7:30 p.m.
Creech scores 63 in loss:
- Jenkins senior Whitney Creech scored 63 points in a 102-92 loss to June Buchanan on Saturday. Jenkins fell to 7-7 with the loss. Jenkins is in the 14th Region located near the Virginia line between Pikeville and Whitesburg,
Creech is pursuing Richey's all-time record for most points scored in a career of 4,948. Creech has 4,568 points in her career. More about Creech will come later in the week.
Jenkins does not play again until Friday. Letcher County Central comes to Jenkins for a 6 p.m. 53rd District game.
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