Story Matters

Story Matters

THE Official HHS Football Site

Monday, December 24, 2018

Bluebirds Fall Short in LexCath Tournament Final

Lady Lions Hold on for Holiday Tournament Title

PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. Highlands junior Piper Macke (1) turns after passing the ball to sophomore teammate Kenzie Nehus (3) while Boyd County sophomore Harley Paynter (14) gets in position in the championship of the Traditional Bank Holiday Classic at Lexington Catholic on Sunday. Boyd County edged Highlands for the title, 61-59.
The same strategy that helped the Highlands Bluebirds girls basketball team (9-2 overall) make it to the championship game of the prestigious holiday classic almost helped the Bluebirds win it.

Highlands had its chances against the Boyd County Lady Lions (10-1) Sunday evening at Lexington Catholic in the Traditional Bank Holiday Classic. But Highlands came up short in a 61-59 defeat.

Highlands beat two preseason Top 25 teams to make it to earn four games in the tournament in Lincoln County and Louisville Butler. The Bluebirds then beat Simon Kenton in the semifinals.

"We have great senior leadership," said Jaime Walz-Richey, Highlands Head Coach. "We do the small things. We're usually smarter than we were on the court (Sunday) and that affected us. We came down and not a lot people thought we'd beat Lincoln County then not a lot of people thought we'd beat Butler. I don't think anybody had us going to the finals so I'm proud of the grit we showed. We had three wins in 25 hours so that's a big accomplishment for these girls. It gave girls who have never been in a game like this experience, which was good." 

Highlands spread the floor in a four-corner look offensively against Simon Kenton on Saturday. The strategy nearly lifted the Bluebirds to another big win against Boyd County.

"We hit some shots there. They're a very disciplined ball team," said Pete Fraley, Boyd County Head Coach. "I told them coming in they wanted to keep the possessions numbered and we had to try to speed them up to get more possessions so we went to a half-court trap, something we hadn't done all year long. But I just drew it up and our kids responded to it. I don't know how many turnovers we got off it, but they took some shots they probably didn't want. We were able to capitalize on it at the other end."

Both teams recorded seven steals. Highlands had 15 turnovers to 14 for Boyd County.

The main thing the Bluebirds knew they needed to do was defend the three-point line well. Boyd County made 8-of-22 from beyond the arc and 18-of-48 shots overall for 38 percent. The Lady Lions also made 17-of-20 free throws for 85 percent.

Boyd County senior point guard Savannah Wheeler made 9-of-21 shots total including 4-of-7 three-point tries on her way to 29 points. Sophomore shooting guard Harley Paynter made 4-of-10 shots including 3-of-8 from three-point range on her way to a double-double of 14 points and 11 rebounds. Wheeler and Paynter average just under 35 and 15 points per game respectively. Wheeler, a Marshall University commit, has scored more than 3,000 points in her prestigious career.

"Like we just talked about, (Saturday) we took it possession by possession and took care of it," Richey said. "(Sunday), we had too many lapses defensively. We let Wheeler and (Paynter) shoot too many open shots. They knew we had to know where those two shooters were and we didn't do that so that's what we have to learn from. Good shooters make wide-open shots."

Highlands saw senior point guard Zoie Barth score 20 points making 7-of-19 shots including two three-pointers and all four free throws to go with three assists and a steal. Junior guard Piper Macke followed with 15 and senior guard Chloe Jansen scored 12.

The Bluebirds shot better overall making 21-of-44 shots for 48 percent including 5-of-19 from three-point range for 26 percent and 12-of-15 free throws for 80 percent. Highlands had 11 assists to five for Boyd County, but lost the rebounding battle, 29-22. Jansen had four assists and five rebounds to lead the Bluebirds.

Boyd County came out and hit four three-pointers in the first quarter. But Highlands took a 16-13 lead after that quarter when Barth hit a triple from the left wing with three seconds left.

Boyd County came out and took the lead in the second quarter. But Barth hit a jumper to put the Bluebirds in front for most of the quarter until Paynter's two free throws gave the Lady Lions the lead back at 26-25 with 1:44 left in the half. Jansen made a three-pointer from the right wing to tie the game at 28-28 at halftime.

A Wheeler jumper gave the Lady Lions a brief 30-28 lead before a Jansen three-point play gave the Bluebirds a 33-30 advantage with 5:35 left in the third quarter. Highlands led by as many as five points taking a 41-37 advantage into the fourth quarter.

Sophomore Rory O'Hara gave Highlands its largest lead at 43-37 with 7:03 left in the game grabbing an offensive rebound and drawing a foul. But Boyd County fought back and took a 46-45 lead with 5:46 left in the game after a Wheeler three-point play.

The teams traded back and forth. Jansen hit two free throws with 2:44 left to put Highlands up 52-51. But Wheeler drew a foul on a three-point shot and made all three to give the Lady Lions the lead for good at 54-52 with 2:32 left in the game.

Boyd County led by six before Barth hit a three-pointer. O'Hara made a lay-up with seven seconds left to make the final score before Paynter dribbled off the rest of the clock to give Boyd County the victory.

Highlands plays in the LaRosa's Holiday Classic starting Thursday at Conner. The Bluebirds face the Lexington Henry Clay Blue Devils (6-5) at 2 p.m.

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