Story Matters

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Monday, February 14, 2022

Highlands Girls Fall in Independence

Two Games Left in Regular Season for Bluebirds

Highlands sophomore center Kasey Gross and junior guard Ellie Walz try to cut off a driver during a recent game.

The Highlands Bluebirds girls basketball team (9-15 overall) dropped a road decision against the Simon Kenton Lady Pioneers (16-10) on Monday.

The Bluebirds had no answer for Simon Kenton eighth grade forward/guard Anna Kelch. She made four triples on her way to 20 points. The Lady Pioneers made 4-of-9 free throws for 44 percent.

Highlands made 8-of-17 free throws for 47 percent. Junior point guard Alyssa Harris led the way scoring 10 points. Freshman center Marissa Green and senior guard Meg Gessner scored eight points each.

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Highlands Hits Season-Low in Points in Region Loss

Struggles Against Top Teams in Region Continues for Bluebirds

PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. Highlands sophomore Laney Smith (19) dribbles into position in a recent game.

The struggles against the top teams in the 9th Region continued Saturday for the Highlands Bluebirds girls basketball team (9-14 overall).

Highlands has yet to score more than 29 points in any game against a team ranked in the top seven in terms of the Ratings Percentage Index in the region in six games. The Bluebirds recorded their season-low in a 53-16 loss at the Conner Lady Cougars (21-3).

The Bluebirds made just 6-of-30 shots for 20 percent including just 1-of-15 from three-point range for seven percent and 3-of-9 free throws for 33 percent. Highlands collected 27 rebounds to go with 26 turnovers, five assists and three steals.

Freshman 6-foot-20-inch center Marissa Green had seven points and six rebounds to lead the Bluebirds. Freshman guard Ellie Mohr also had six rebounds.

Conner had two players score in double figures. Senior forward Lauren Hawthorne had a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Junior forward Juliet Strange added 11 points.

The Lady Cougars made 20-of-56 shots for 36 percent including 7-of-27 from three-point range for 26 percent and 6-of-11 free throws for 55 percent. Conner also collected 34 rebounds.

Friday, February 11, 2022

Highlands Dominates Newport

Bluebirds Earn Third Seed in 36th District Tournament

PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. Highlands junior point guard Alyssa Harris sets up to shoot a free throw in a game earlier in the week.

The Highlands Bluebirds girls basketball team (9-13 overall) knew another district loss would mean having to win twice in the 36th District Tournament to make it to the 9th Region Tournament.

The Bluebirds made sure that did not happen dominating the Newport Ladycats (15-6), 50-13 on Friday at Russell Bridges Gym. Highlands finished 1-2 in district play and will be the third seed in the district tournament to be played at Bellevue.

"It was great how the girls responded from that (52-45) loss at Bellevue (on Wednesday)," said Jaime Walz-Richey, Highlands Head Coach. "We watched film from that game for about an hour or so then came back up and went over things for about 45 minutes. Film is such a teachable tool we try to use whenever we can. The things that we did on Wednesday aren't things that we're supposed to do. When they saw that on film, they were like, 'Oh.' So we made sure we didn't do the same things (Friday)."

Highlands saw nine different players score in the win. Junior point guard Alyssa Harris led the way with 13 points making three three-pointers and freshman 6-foot-2-inch center Marissa Green scored 10. Green also had nine rebounds.

Highlands made 19-of-41 shots for 46 percent including 7-of-19 three-point shots for 37 percent and 3-of-4 free throws for 75 percent. The Bluebirds also had 17 assists, 12 steals, 14 turnovers and 23 rebounds.

"We preach that to them," Richey said. "When we're watching film, some of those girls didn't get in. In the film, it's one person. But it's really all of them that we're talking to so we don't make the same mistakes."

Newport did not have anyone score more than five points. The Ladycats made 2-of-4 free throws for 50 percent.

The win marked the 401st since Richey took over the program in 2002. That ties her for 35th on the all-time wins list for Kentucky girls basketball head coaches with 25-year Villa Madonna Head Coach Don Shields, who retired in 2014.

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Bellevue Stuns Highlands

Bluebirds Drop District Game

PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. Highlands sophomore Laney Smith (1) gets in defensive position in a recent game.

Two days after a huge win, the Highlands Bluebirds girls basketball team (8-13 overall) dropped a 36th District contest.

Highlands built a 29-19 halftime lead. But ended up losing 52-45 to the Bellevue Tigers (14-7) on Wednesday. The Bluebirds are 0-2 in district play.

Free throws made a huge difference in this game. Bellevue made 12-of-15 for 80 percent and Highlands made just 8-of-18 for 44 percent.

Highlands placed two players in double figures. Freshman center Marissa Green and freshman guard Ellie Mohr scored 11 points each. Eighth grade guard Kaylee Mills scored eight.

Bellevue had one player reach double digits in senior forward Jaden Bivens with 12. Two freshmen in guard Sydni Massey and forward Courtney McCarty scored nine points each.

Monday, February 7, 2022

Highlands Weekend/Monday Notes

Highlands Boys Swimming, Diving Team Wins Region for Fifth Straight Year

Facebook Photo. The Highlands Swimming and Diving Teams participated in the 7th Region Meet over the weekend. The Highlands boys won it for the fifth straight year.

The Highlands Bluebirds boys swimming and diving team won its fifth straight 7th Region Crown over the weekend.

Highlands won it with 447.5 points edging Ryle by 5.5 points. The Highlands girls took fifth with 193 points.

Junior Matt Herfel won the 100-yard Breaststroke in one minute, 1.06 seconds and senior Benjamin Vaught took second in 1:01.44. Senior Sam Jones won the 500 Freestyle in 4:41.66 and the 200 Freestyle in 1:43.84.

Herfel and Jones also helped the 400 freestyle relay team to a second-place finish in 3:18.06. Other members of that team are juniors Evan Jones and Adam Pawlak. Pawlak finished second in the 100 Butterfly in 55.54 seconds.

Herfel also helped the 200 freestyle team finish runner-up in 1:30.38. Other members of the team were sophomore Charlie Banks, junior Bode Russell and seventh grader Chanith Abeysinghe. Jones, Vaught, Pawlak and Charlie Banks helped the 200 Medley Relay team to a second-place finish in 1:39.36.

Freshman Sarah Jones won the 100 Backstroke in 59.35 seconds. Eighth grader Ragan Moore finished second in the 50 Freestyle in 25.27 seconds.

Highlands Girls Fall in First Round:

The Bluebirds lost in the first round of the state tournament at Executive Strike and Spare to Cooper, 3-1 (139-142, 171-128, 148-132, 163-132). They earned the 12th seed bowling a total of 736 in the preliminaries Monday.

Friday, February 4, 2022

Highlands Girls Bowling Wins Region Crown

Bluebirds Headed to State for Eighth Time in Program History

Twitter Photo. The Highlands Bluebirds girls bowling team won its first 5th Region crown since 2018 on Tuesday.

The Highlands Bluebirds girls bowling team came together well despite a lot of inexperience posting a record of 7-1.

The Bluebirds hoped to put it together in the 5th Region Tournament held at their home Bellewood Lanes. They did it claiming their first region championship since 2018 Tuesday.

Highlands bowled a total of 799 to take the third seed out of six teams in the preliminary round. The Bluebirds then took down sixth-seeded Pendleton County, 3-2 (118-167, 114-100, 135-168, 165-131, 135-92).

But the Bluebirds took down second-seeded Campbell County in the semifinals and Newport Central Catholic in the championship game by 3-0 scores. Highlands bested Campbell County by scores of 113-111, 191-125, 180-129 then NewCath by 125-117, 151-94, 180-129 scores.

"We started off slow. But we were able to get on a roll and after that, we were unstoppable," said Madison Clore, Highlands senior. "We never gave up and we continued to persevere in order to win. Our team has worked hard to get to this point and I am proud to be a part of it. This team is full of positivity, determination and energy, which will helps us go far in state."

Clore and senior Kristen Egan were the only two with varsity experience returning from last year's team that qualified for state. But the likes of seniors Macy Hedenberg, Carissa Armstrong, Jade Rehberger and Chloe Bramble made quick contributions. Bramble credited Head Coach Andy Eckerle for creating the positive environment

"We obviously had our work cut out for us at the beginning," Bramble said. "I know a lot of the girls joined the team simply because it sounded like something fun to do without all the pressure. However, everyone that had joined this year grew to love the sport very quickly and we were all very invested. We had practice twice a week aside from matches and bowled frequently in our free time. A lot of the girls would go to (Coach) Eckerle's classroom throughout the day to look at standings and talk about strategies."

Highlands saw Abby Bach go down and win the first individual girls state championship in school history last year. But no bowler made it individually for the boys or girls teams this year. Hedenberg placed seventh in the region meet making it to the semifinals out of 30 bowlers. The highest score on the boys side was 20th out of 31 bowlers.

The Highlands boys finished 4-4 on the season. The Bluebirds earned the fifth seed in the preliminaries bowling 994. The lost to Dayton, 3-1 (190-189, 141-150, 197-165, 177-141) in the first round.

The state tournament takes place Monday at Executive Strike and Spare in Louisville starting at 8:10 a.m. Eastern Standard Time. Highlands bowls on Lanes 45 and 46.

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Highlands Wins Second Straight Game

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."

Monday, January 31, 2022

Highlands Girls Down Lloyd Memorial

Bluebirds Receive Contributions from Many Players in Win

PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. Highlands freshman center Marissa Green (10) had a double-double of 20 points and 12 rebounds in the win at Lloyd Memorial on Saturday.

The Highlands Bluebirds girls basketball team (6-12 overall) won its first 9th Region game of the year in seven tries with a 58-39 road win at the Lloyd Memorial Juggernauts (7-12).

"I was really proud of how the girls came out and competed," said Jaime Walz-Richey, Highlands Head Coach. "It was a great contribution from everybody."

It started inside with double-doubles from their two tall centers. The 6-foot-2-inch freshman Marissa Green had 20 points and 12 rebounds with 6-1 senior CC Shick scoring 13 and grabbing 10 rebounds.

Eight different Bluebirds scored in the win. Highlands made 23-of-50 shots for 46 percent including 2-of-12 three-point tries for 17 percent. The Bluebirds also made 10-of-12 free throws for 84 percent to go with 38 rebounds, 16 assists, five steals and 17 turnovers.

Sophomore guard Laney Smith led Highlands with six assists and sophomore center Kasey Gross had two steals. Third-year starting point guard Alyssa Harris made her return to the line-up a few weeks ago. Harris was the lone starter returning from last season. Harris was not able to play soccer or run cross country in the fall.

"It's been amazing to finally get back out on the court," Harris said. "Obviously getting to still see the girls play before when I was hurt, it was nice to be a part of the team. But finally being able to do something that could make a change to the game was really nice."

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Highlands Unable to Record Home Win

Bluebirds Play First Game in Two Weeks

PHOTO: G. Michael Graham. Highlands sophomore center Kasey Gross listens in a huddle during a recent game.

The Highlands Bluebirds girls basketball team (5-12 overall) had the opportunity to record a win in its first game in two weeks.

With more than two seconds left, Highlands received a good look near the basket. But it did not go down resulting in a 56-55 loss to the North Oldham Lady Mustangs (8-12).

Freshman 6-foot-2-inch center Marissa Green led the Bluebirds with a double-double of 25 points and 16 rebounds. Sophomore center Kasey Gross followed with nine points.

Highlands made 23-of-46 shots for 50 percent, but just 1-of-6 three-point tries for 17 percent and just 8-of-19 free throws for 42 percent. The Bluebirds also grabbed 33 rebounds.

Senior power forward Riley Neal led North Oldham with 18 points and sophomore shooting guard Gracie Sipes made four triples on her way to 17 points. The Lady Mustangs made 11-of-17 free throws for 65 percent.

Friday, January 21, 2022

Highlands Bowling Teams Conclude Regular Season with Victories

The Highlands bowling teams downed Dayton on Thursday at Bellewood Lanes to conclude the regular season.

The Highlands girls finished 7-1 beating Pendleton County on Tuesday. The boys are 4-4 losing to Pendleton County at La Ru Lanes.

The 5th Region Tournament takes place at Bellewood Lanes. The dates are January 31 through Feb. 2.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Thursday Highlands Notes: Girls Basketball Game at NewCath Postponed

PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. Highlands eighth grade point guard Kaylee Mills gets in position in a recent game.

The Highlands Bluebirds girls basketball game at Newport Central Catholic scheduled for Friday will not be played.

If games can not be made up because of Coronavirus 2019 concerns, they go down as forfeits. Highlands is 5-9 for now and NewCath is 13-5. Highlands Head Coach Jaime Walz-Richey has not been able to be at the last four games.

"The Highlands girls basketball team is pausing activity because of positive cases on the team," said Wes Caldwell, Highlands Director of Athletics. "The health and safety of the players and their families are our top concern. We will reevaluate on Tuesday. We hope to reschedule our game with NCC."

The Highlands girls also had a home game scheduled against Cincinnati (Ohio) Ursuline Academy on Saturday at 2:30 p.m.

Highlands Teams Defeat NewCath:

The Highlands boys are 3-3 with the 5-2 win at Bellewood Lanes. Junior Jake Veneman bowled a 213 with juniors Dana Brown and Kurrin Frank bowling 180 and 178 respectively.

The Highlands girls moved to 5-1 with a 6-1 win. Senior Jade Rehberger led the way bowling 185 with senior Macy Hedenberg bowling 170 and 166. Seniors Chloe Bramble and Madison Clore both bowled 164.

Highlands takes on Pendleton County at La Ru Lanes on Tuesday. Match time is 4:15 p.m.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Highlands Tuesday Round-Up

Bluebirds Still Winless in Region Action

PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. Highlands sophomore center Kasey Gross posts up in a recent game.

The Highlands Bluebirds girls basketball team (5-8 overall) saw the lone returning starter from last year return in junior point guard Alyssa Harris.

But Highlands could not produce consecutive victories falling 55-28 at St. Henry. The Bluebirds are 0-5 against 9th Region competition this year.

Senior center CC Shick led Highlands with 11 points. Shick made 5-of-7 shots and grabbed five rebounds.

The Bluebirds made 12-of-40 shots for 30 percent including 1-of-13 from three-point range for eight percent and 3-of-12 free throws for 25 percent. Highlands also had seven assists, eight steals, 30 turnovers and 24 rebounds.

Highlands travels to Newport Central Catholic (11-5) on Friday. Game time is 7:30 p.m.

Highlands Loses Both Matches against Campbell County:

The Highlands girls fell to 4-1 and the boys are 2-3 following the losses to the Camels at Bellewood Lanes.

Sunday, January 9, 2022

Saturday Round-up: Highlands Girls Hoops Bounces Back to Down County Rival

Highlands Archery Places Third in Tournament

PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. Highlands freshman forward Adrienne Harris runs up-court in a recent game.

The Highlands Bluebirds girls basketball team (5-7 overall) faced another 37th District team Saturday at Russell Bridges Gym and put out a much better result.

Acting Head Coach Kayla Umberg challenged the Bluebirds in the fourth quarter of the loss at Scott on Friday to hustle better among other things. They put together a better fourth quarter in that game and it carried over to the next day resulting in a 57-50 win over the Campbell County Camels (6-7).

"It was like a whole other team out there," Umberg said. "We had a really good film session before the game. (6-foot-1-inch center) CC Shick, our only senior, really challenged the girls. (She) kind of told them what Highlands basketball is from the last girl on the bench to the girls on the floor and I think that really motivated the girls. It was really exciting to see all the girls involved, how excited the bench was and celebrating the win with the girls on the court."

Umber has served as acting head coach the past three games. Head Coach Jaime Walz-Richey has not able to be there during that time.

Shick led the way with a double-double of 23 points making both three-point shots, 11 rebounds, five assists and three steals. Freshman Marissa Green at 6-2 followed with 14 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Eighth grade guard Saylor Macke followed with eight including a crucial bucket down the stretch.

"(On Friday) our effort was really not there. It was good coming out (Saturday)," Macke said. "It always helps when our bench energy is up."

Highlands made 22-of-51 shots for 43 percent including 3-of-17 from three-point range for 18 percent and 10-of-14 free throws for 71 percent. The Bluebirds also had 38 rebounds, 17 assists, 11 steals and just 14 turnovers.

Junior forward Keauna Cullum led Campbell County with 12 and sophomore Alli Collins scored 11. The Camels made 7-of-14 free throws for 50 percent, 17 two-point shots and three three-pointers.

Highlands travels to St. Henry on Tuesday. Game time is 7:30 p.m.

Highlands placed third out of eight teams in the Camp Ernst Middle School Shoot-Out in Burlington over the weekend with 3,154 points. Cooper won it with 3,244 points.

Saturday, January 8, 2022

Highlands Girls Fall at Scott

Half-Court Pressure Hurts Bluebirds

PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. Highlands sophomore guard Ava Lawhorn (13) gets in defensive position in the game at Scott on Friday.

The Highlands Bluebirds girls basketball team (4-7 overall) ventured to Taylor Mill facing more than the usual challenges associated with the young team.

Head Coach Jaime Walz-Richey was not able to be there so Kayla Umberg served as acting head coach for the second game in a row. Juniors Ellie Walz and Alyssa Harris were still not able to play and experienced guards Meg Gessner and Laney Smith were not available. 

Highlands held tough with Scott (8-7) in the first quarter. But the Lady Eagles pulled away for a 52-34 victory. That win ended a 15-game winning streak for the Bluebirds in the series. 

The teams have not played on an annual basis throughout the last 16 seasons. But the last time Scott beat Highlands came by a 55-48 score on Feb. 19, 2005.

Highlands continued to try to work the ball inside to senior 6-foot-1-inch center CC Shick and 6-2 freshman center Marissa Green. Shick scored eight of her team-high 11 points in the first quarter when Highlands built a 10-7 lead.

But the Scott Lady Eagles pulled away in the second quarter when the likes of players such as senior guard Macy Campbell and junior forward Kayla Peterson penetrated the lane and made things happen. The duo scored 12 points each to lead Scott. 

Highlands hit 15-of-53 shots for 28 percent including 2-of-16 from three-point range for 13 percent. The Bluebirds also had six assists, 13 steals and 33 rebounds. Sophomore center Kasey Gross had seven rebounds to lead Highlands with eighth grade forward Katie Bucher recording four steals.

Scott used some half-court traps to pull away from Highlands forcing 23 turnovers. The Lady Eagles also made 14-of-18 free throws for 78 percent compared to 2-for-6 for 33 percent for Highlands.

Friday, January 7, 2022

Highlands Girls Bowling Team Bests Beechwood

Girls Basketball Falls to 0-4 in Region Play

PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. Highlands eighth grader Saylor Macke (31) gets in position in a recent game.

The Highlands Bluebirds girls bowling team moved to 4-0 on the season with a win over Beechwood at Bellewood Lanes on Thursday. 

Senior Macy Hedenberg led Highlands bowling a 197. The Highlands boys dropped to 2-2 losing to Beechwood.

Highlands defeated Scott in a Co-Ed Match on Tuesday to move to 4-0. Senior Chloe Bramble led Highlands bowling a 170 and senior Jade Rehberger bowled a 165. Junior Kurrin Frank bowled 161 and 159.

Highlands bowls against Campbell County on Jan. 11 at Southern Lanes.

Basketball, Girls:
Ryle 76, Highlands 29:

The Bluebirds (4-6 overall) continued to struggle against top teams in the 9th Region on the road Wednesday.

Highlands made just 9-of-29 shots for 31 percent including 3-of-13 from three-point range for 23 percent and made 6-of-10 free throws for 60 percent. The Bluebirds also grabbed just 15 rebounds. Senior Meg Gessner scored eight points to lead the Bluebirds and freshman 6-foot-2-inch center Marissa Green scored seven.

Ryle (11-4) hit 32-of-54 shots for 59 percent including 5-of-11 from three-point range for 46 percent and 7-of-8 free throws for 88 percent. The Lady Raiders also grabbed 25 rebounds.

Ryle put four players in double figures. Junior guard Abby Holtman led the way scoring 20. Sophomore center Sarah Baker, sophomore forward Quinn Eubank and junior guard Austin Johnson scored 15, 14 and 14 points respectively.