Thursday, February 12, 2015

Area basketball teams seek strong regular season finishes

PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, DWCPhoto.com. Highlands sophomore Kiersten Clukey goes up for a shot in a recent game against Boone County. The Ladybirds have won seven straight entering the tournament.

By G. MICHAEL GRAHAM
Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter

They know their seeds in the upcoming 36th District Tournament.

It is just a matter of finishing up the regular season strong. All four teams have the opportunity to pick up quality wins entering the postseason.

The Highlands Ladybirds (24-3) have passed the 23-win total of last year’s region semifinalist squad and are two wins away from the region runner-squad two years ago. They will be the top seed in the district tournament.

Juniors Brianna Adler and Haley Coffey started on both teams. Adler and Coffey average 11.4 and 6.3 points per game respectively. Adler has made 67-of-79 free-throw tries for about 85 percent.

Highlands has won seven in a row. The Ladybirds are 13-2 in 9th Region play. Their two losses came to Covington Holy Cross (40-39 in overtime) and Holmes (64-62) by a combined three points.

Highlands continues to have balance as the top six players average at least 6.3 points per game. Lydia Graves and McKenzie Leigh average 10.5 and 10 points per game respectively. Leigh recently returned to action after missing five games. Leigh also leads the team averaging 6.1 rebounds a contest.

Highlands faces Lloyd Memorial (12-12) at 6 p.m. Friday and Walton-Verona (13-11) at 4 p.m. Saturday on the road. The biggest test to finish the regular season for the Ladybirds will be against 21-3 Simon Kenton on Feb. 19 in Fort Thomas.

The defending 9th Region champion Newport Central Catholic girls are 15-10 with four games to go. The Feb. 18 game against Louisville Mercy (18-7) at home appears to be the biggest game.

NewCath does not have the dominant post like it had with Nikki Kiernan the last couple years. But the Thoroughbreds will not be an easy out in the tournament. They will be the second seed in the 36th District Tournament.

Junior Ansley Davenport leads the Thoroughbreds averaging 14 points per game. Seniors Michaela Ware and Loren Zimmerman average 9.9 and 9.2 points respectively. Freshman Lexy Breen has also showed some promise.

The NewCath boys have won 13 in a row to move to 24-3 overall including a third consecutive All “A” State championship. The Thoroughbreds have a tough game Friday against Covington Holmes at Northern Kentucky University and a tough home game Tuesday against Louisville Trinity before concluding the season against Conner.

The Thoroughbreds have won 29 in a row against district opponents and are a huge favorite to win their seventh straight district championship. Teams in the 9th Region have problems matching up with 6-foot-7-inch Drew McDonald and 6-6 Ben Weyer let alone the district. McDonald and Weyer average 16.8 and 15.7 points per game.

NewCath senior Zack Pangallo averages 11.5 points per game making sure teams do not double down on Weyer and McDonald. Grant Moeves, Erik Anderson and John Ludwig also give the Thoroughbreds threats on the perimeter.

Highlands (6-14) will take anything positive from these last four games. The Bluebirds have lost six in a row including a home district contest to Bellevue dropping them to the fourth seed in the district. If Highlands beats Dayton, the Bluebirds will have to beat NewCath to make it to the region tournament.

Highlands has seen a number of players rise despite the late start as many of the players took part of the 23rd football state championship in school history. Senior Parker Harris leads the way averaging 13.6 points per game and Mitch Cain averages 9.1.

The state pairings were recently released. The 9th Region winner faces the 10th Region winner on March 18 at 6:30 p.m. on the boys side at Rupp Arena.

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