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Thursday, January 25, 2018

Highlands Girls Hoops Focused on Controllable Things

Undisputed Top Seed in District Tournament on Line Friday

PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, Highlands freshman guard Kenzie Nehus goes up for a shot in the win over Campbell County on Saturday.
The long-term goals have not changed.

But for now, the 14-6 Highlands Bluebirds girl basketball team is focusing on the things only the players and coaches can control. Those things helped the Bluebirds record a convincing 58-25 victory at Bishop Brossart on Monday two days after the huge 53-52 win over the second-ranked Campbell County Lady Camels on Saturday in Fort Thomas. Highlands has won three straight.

"At this point, we're just focusing on keeping up our intensity, our energy and keeping up the teamwork," said Brooke Dill, Highlands senior guard. "We really liked how we played as a team together Saturday. We kept our game plan. We just really want to focus on keeping that going."

Highlands Head Coach Jaime Walz-Richey retweeted a quote weeks ago about how a quiet bench is not a winning bench. The Highlands bench has been nothing but quiet this year. During the win at Bishop Brossart, Richey even ventured down to the other side of the bench and pointed out some things to the players there. Even with Highlands up big and the game in a running clock, the coaches did not stop coaching.

"I think when you see this team, they're one big family," Richey said. "They're going to cheer for each other. They're going to support one another. They know the coaches are going to coach as much as we can to help us win."

The Bluebirds have a huge reason to continue to put the pedal to the metal on Friday. They are 3-0 in district seed action and can close out the undisputed top seed in the 36th District Tournament for the fifth straight year against the host Newport Ladycats (13-8) on Saturday. Newport already has two more wins than last year.

"We're playing a really good Newport team that we're going to have to come out with the same intensity that we've come out every game the past couple weeks," Richey said. "We just have to build on the things we did well and also look at the things we have to work on."

Highlands has outscored the opposition, 1,081-847 for an average of just more than 54-42. The average margin of victory for the Bluebirds is 11.7 points per game.

Highlands junior guard Zoie Barth leads the Bluebirds with 386 points and 113 rebounds for averages of 19.3 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. Freshman Rory O'Hara is second with 163 points for an average of 8.2 per contest and junior Hanna Buecker is third with 119 points for an average of 6.6 per game.

Junior guard Chloe Jansen and Dill have been the other two starters most of the season with junior guard Ashley Hayes starting recently after Buecker missed two games with an injury. Ten players have seen action in at least 15 games for the Bluebirds. The other four are junior Olivia Gessner, sophomore Maggie Hinegardner and freshmen Emma Riccobene and Kenzie Nehus.

"We just had to try to stay focused after our big win," Hinegardner said. "(Our cutting) has gotten a lot better. We've really focused on that in practice to make sure we can get easy lay-ups during the game or wide-open threes."

Other reserves have seen action when Highlands is up by a lot. They are sophomores Rylee Thomas, Meghan Walz, Audrey Graves and freshman Emma Mallery. Those four plus Hinegardner, Riccobene and Nehus have helped the Highlands Junior Varsity squad to an undefeated 11-0 mark.

Highlands also plays Louisville Assumption (7-13) on Saturday in a make-up game at 3 p.m. The Bluebirds also saw a game against Covington Holy Cross cancelled last week. Holy Cross is currently playing in the All "A" State Tournament.

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