|Allen Ramsey Photo. Highlands senior Brandon Hergott (32) battles Holmes post Marcus Hill (23) in Friday's 9th Region Quaterfinal game at the Bank of Kentucky Center. Hergott scored nine points in the 60-41 Holmes win.|
By G. MICHAEL GRAHAM
Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter
HIGHLAND HEIGHTS – They may have hit their main goal playing on this floor.
But the Highlands Bluebirds basketball team hoped to take another step and upset a 9th Region contender in the quarterfinals at the Bank of Kentucky Center on the Northern Kentucky University campus. It was not meant to happen as the Holmes Bulldogs pulled away for a 60-41 victory Friday.
“Our kids definitely played their basketball at the end of the year,” said Kevin Listerman, Highlands Head Coach. “It was very, very satisfying. It took me a long time to figure out what we do best and how to use the pieces. Once we did and the kids got comfortable, we looked like a completely different ball club.”
The Bluebirds (9-15) decided to spread teams out and attack from all angles. But Holmes (27-5) had the size and speed to make things tough, especially near the rim.
Parker Harris was the lone Highlands player to reach double-digits. He finished with 13 points and Brandon Hergott finished with nine.
“We started to get going then we struggled because we were outmatched at times,” Hergott said. “But we still found ways to get it done this season. We couldn’t jump with (the Bulldogs) down low.”
This marked the last game for six Highlands seniors. They are Hergott, Drew Houliston, Alex Shepherd, Brendan Buten, Ryan Greene and Luke Brockett.
“We hope we were good role models and I think the foundation is down for the effort that we gave,” Houliston said. “We hope the program keeps getting better and the younger guys get back here and get a win here. We laid it all out there for each other. I’ll miss these guys a lot.”
Holmes saw three players reach double-digits. Junior point guard James “Beetle” Bolden led the way with 19 points making three three-pointers. Posts Marcus Hill and Quinton Chames followed with 16 and 10 respectively.
“Our bigs are playing very well,” said Jason Booher, Holmes Head Coach. “In the month of February, they didn’t play like this. A lot of teams we play don’t play above the rim like they do. That’s an advantage there with their athleticism.”
The Bulldogs won the rebounding battle, 34-19. Chames led everyone with 13 for a double-double and Hill had eight.
“They’re tremendous on the glass and we knew that,” Listerman said. “We knew that was one of our weaknesses. We battled, but it wasn’t enough to close the gap. It’s a matter of us getting basketball-better over the next five, six months and we’ll do that.”
Holmes made 22-of-49 shots for 45 percent including five three-pointers compared to 12-of-37 for 32 percent for Highlands. The Bluebirds made just three triples all in the second half.
“We knew they were going to try to dribble-drive or kick it out to shoot the three,” Booher said. “I thought if they shot 23 threes and made nine or 10 of them, they’d have a shot at beating us. The good thing at halftime is they were 0-for-3 in three-pointers. I told them we guarded the perimeter the way we wanted.”
Highlands did shoot free throws better. The Bluebirds made 14-of-20 for 70 percent compared to 9-of-15 for 60 percent for the Bulldogs.
The game stayed close for most of the first half. Bolden hit a three-pointer to start the game. Highlands pulled within a point three times including 10-9 with 1:43 remaining in the first quarter when Hergott hit a jumper.
Following another Bolden triple, Buten hit a jumper in the center with two seconds left. Holmes led 13-11 after the first quarter.
Harris had an offensive putback to tie the game at 13 to start the third quarter before Daequan Glover made a three to give Holmes the lead for good. Highlands trimmed the margin to one twice in the second quarter that saw a Harris dunk.
Hergott hit two free throws to make the score 23-19 in favor of Highlands with 3:43 remaining in the half. But Holmes finished the half with an 8-0 run to go up 31-19 at halftime. Hill scored four points during that run.
“They are a very difficult team to match up with,” Listerman said. “They have weapons all over the place. They handle the ball so well and are very athletic. You have to pick your battles.”
The teams stayed even in the third quarter scoring eight each. Highlands trimmed the lead to 10 twice in the fourth quarter. Justin Weyer hit a jumper with 4:15 left trimming the Holmes lead to 47-37. But the Bulldogs hit their free throws to pull away after that.
The Bulldogs advanced to the semifinals to face Dixie Heights. Game time is 1:30 p.m. Sunday.