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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."