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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Monday Highlands Basketball Notes

Highlands Girls Record Huge Road Win
PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, Highlands junior Hanna Buecker sets up for a shot in a recent game. Buecker scored 10 points in the big Bluebird 66-63 road win at Simon Kenton on Monday.
These two girls basketball programs have veteran head coaches and assistants that hold the players to high standards.

With everyone from the players at the lower levels to the administrators buying into those philosophies equaling solid alignments, it has led to a lot of success. So when they come together on the same court, it often makes for a great game and Monday's edition in Independence brought just that.

But the Highlands Bluebirds (21-7 overall) did enough to beat the Simon Kenton Lady Pioneers, 66-63 in non-region action. Highlands has won 10 of its last 11 games and beat Simon Kenton (15-9) for the first time in Independence since a 48-45 victory on Feb. 19, 2010 when Katie Allen, Bekah Towles and Hope Cutter were seniors. The home team proceeded to win the next six meetings until Simon Kenton came to Fort Thomas and recorded a 73-30 win.

Highlands did it with balanced scoring. Simon Kenton guarded junior guards Chloe Jansen and Zoie Barth tight with various traps and man-to-man defense all over the court. The Bluebirds turned the ball over 19 times yielding seven Simon Kenton steals, but also they also made great things happen when they broke down the Lady Pioneer defense recording 13 assists.

"Each team presents different things for us defensively so we have to make changes offensively and execute them," said Jaime Walz-Richey, Highlands Head Coach. "(Monday) We thought we could attack off the dribble."

The duo still finished with 11 points each. Barth, who came into the game averaging 20 points per game, made 9-of-10 free throws to go with a team-high seven rebounds, one assist and one steal. Jansen made 3-of-4 free throws including two with 7.2 seconds to make the final score to go with a team-high eight assists.

But junior guard Ashley Hayes stepped forward to lead the Bluebirds with 20 points. She made 6-of-8 three-pointers mostly from the left corner and 7-of-9 total to go with four rebounds, one assist and one steal.

"We were trying to get the ball to the open player," Hayes said. "With the way they played defense, it was important to get to the open spot to shoot, drive and kick (the ball out). Our team isn't really selfish. We try to get everyone to shoot the ball because it takes everybody to win the game."

Highlands junior forward Hanna Buecker made all four shots on her way to 10 points and senior guard Brooke Dill nearly scored in double figures with nine. The fifth starter in freshman Rory O'Hara came back after missing the last two games and scored five points, but finished second on the team with six rebounds and added a steal. Dill also had three assists and a steal.

"It was a great team effort," Richey said. "Ashley stepped up and made some three's. It's about putting in time. We had shooting practice (Sunday). She was there then she stayed afterwards and shot with (Highlands assistant) Coach (Jeff) Schaefer. She's seeing how hard work pays off and the other girls are seeing that, too."

Highlands shot incredibly well making 22-of-37 shots for nearly 60 percent including 7-of-15 from three-point range for about 47 percent and also hit 15-of-19 free throws for about 79 percent. Simon Kenton made 23-of-54 shots for about 43 percent including 8-of-27 from three-point range for about 30 percent and 9-of-14 from the free-throw line for just above 64 percent.

The Bluebirds won the rebounding battle, 24-18 and had 14 fouls with no one recording more than three. Simon Kenton recorded 15 fouls with senior guard Shelby Harmeyer fouling out after scoring 11 points.

The Lady Pioneers saw five players reach double figures. Senior guard Ally Niece, a Northern Kentucky University commit, scored 16 points and had one steal and sophomore guard Morgan Stamper scored 12. Sophomore guards Maggi Jones and Mattie Vickers added 10 points each. Stamper led Simon Kenton with seven rebounds.

"They have some outstanding shooters that we had to know where they were at all times," Richey said. "In the first half, we had some mishaps on defense where we let the shooters shoot. But I thought we did a much better job in the second half of not letting them shoot."

Simon Kenton scored the first 10 points of the second quarter to go up 24-14. But Highlands came back and cut it to four twice trailing just 33-27 at halftime.

The Bluebirds came out strong to start the third quarter on a 15-0 run. Two Hayes three-pointers finished with a Jansen lay-up gave Highlands a 42-33 lead with 4:02 left in the quarter.

Simon Kenton tied the game at 42 with 2:07 left in the quarter before Buecker scored on the right post. After Harmeyer tied it, Buecker scored from the right post again and Hayes made another triple to put Highlands up 49-44 with 45 seconds left in the quarter. Niece made two free throws with 31 seconds left to trim the margin to 49-46 entering the fourth quarter.

After Harmeyer tied the game again with a three-pointer, Highlands used a 6-0 run finished by an O'Hara score to build a 55-49 lead with 4:30 to go in the game. Following two Stamper free throws, Buecker converted a three-point play with 3:27 left to put Highlands up 58-51.

Jansen made a lay-up in the paint with 1:30 left to give Highlands a 64-56 advantage. But Simon Kenton fought back. Stamper grabbed an offensive rebound with 7.4 seconds left and drew the foul to trim the margin to 64-63. But she missed the free throw and Jansen boxed out well to draw the foul on the rebound.

Following her two free throws, Niece took the ball near the sidelines and got off a good look from beyond the top of the three-point line. But it did not go and Hayes grabbed the rebound to end the game.

"We knew coming into their place, it was a tough atmosphere," Barth said. "We had to give Simon Kenton credit for their versatile players. It was really cool to watch my team step up and not crumble under the pressure."

Highlands won the junior varsity game, 30-28 when sophomore Meghan Walz scored at the buzzer. Highlands (17-1) saw Maggie Hinegardner lead the way with 10 points and Emma Riccobene score nine.

The Bluebirds conclude the season at Beechwood (4-20) on Friday. Game time is 6 p.m.

Basketball, Boys:
Covington Holy Cross 54, Highlands 52:

The Bluebirds (12-13 overall) had a couple chances to tie the game in the final seconds, but could not get one in against the host Indians (12-13).

Juniors Ben Sisson and Alex Starkey led the Bluebirds with 11 points each. Highlands made 9-of-18 free throws for 50 percent and the Indians hit 9-of-11 for about 82 percent.

"We didn't shoot it as well (as Saturday's win over Lloyd Memorial) I thought, especially in the first half," said Kevin Listerman, Highlands Head Coach. "We had some great looks from three that we just didn't make. But I'm really proud of our guys for battling. We just didn't make the last play."

The Bluebirds play host to Villa Madonna (13-14) on Senior Night on Thursday. Game time is 7:30 p.m.

Basketball, Middle School Boys:
Sixth, Seventh Grade teams finish runner-up in NKMSAA Tournaments:

Both Highlands Middle School teams lost by a point to the respective opponents in the Northern Kentucky Middle School Athletic Assocation Tournaments.

St. Pius hit 1-of-2 free throws with 4.4 seconds left to beat the Sixth Grade Birds under the guidance of Head Coach Mike Herald and assisted by Keri Welch. The loss snapped a run of three consecutive region championships for Highlands. The team finished 22-4 and won the Holiday Tournament at Dayton. All-Tournament selections for Highlands were Brody Benke and Nathan Vinson. Other team members are Noah Frommeyer, Ty Schwalbach, Nathan Welch, Lincoln Hicks, Brayden Moeves, Cameron Bottom, Eli Bouldin, Carson Class, Zach deSylva and Dalton Roller.

Highlands tried to win the game against St. Pius in the 7th Grade championship game with a three-point try, but it fell short. Highlands led by 11 at halftime, but struggled to score in the second half. Highlands finished 23-7 overall and is led by Head Coach Scott Kraus and assistant Tom DeBurger.

Jack Hendrix and Charlie Noon received All-Tournament Team selections. Other team members are Jake Bolling, Will Herald, Seth Valliere, Ryan DeBurger, Cody Kramer, Wilson Bibb, Dawson Hosea, Adam Dunn, Sam Robinson, Seth Ryan and Brennan Kelsay.

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