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Saturday, February 23, 2019

Five Straight District Crowns for Highlands Girls Hoops

Bluebirds Record 350th Win of Richey's Tenure as Head Coach

PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. Highlands senior Hanna Buecker (20) gets in position during the fourth quarter of the 36th District championship game Friday at Newport Central Catholic.
During the 30-game winning streak against 36th District opponents, only once has a team come within single digits of the Highlands Bluebirds girls basketball team.

That came in a narrow 45-44 win at Newport Central Catholic on Jan. 2, 2016. During this regular season, the average margin of victory over district opponents was just under 40 points. Highlands trumped that in a 54-point 73-19 win over Bellevue in the 36th District semifinals.

NewCath came the closest anyone in the district did this year in the championship game on its home court Friday. But it still was not anywhere close to that game on The Hill in 2016. The Bluebirds (28-4 overall) scored the game's first 10 points and never looked back recording a 61-40 victory for their fifth straight district championship and sixth in the last seven years. Their largest lead of the game was 25 points.

The win also marked the 350th in 17-year Head Coach Jaime Walz-Richey's tenure against 169 losses. Highlands has eight district championships total since she became head coach in 2002.

"It was great, especially the way we came out," Richey said. "We were ready to go. That was a credit to the girls. They were focused. They knew what we had to do offensively and defensively and we did that. We kind of buried them off the bat. We talked about that - focusing on doing what we had to do at all times."

As of April 4, 2018, the Kentucky High School Athletic Association listed 34 coaches that have reached 375 or more career victories including five that are still active. Veteran Perry County Central Coach Randy Napier leads that list currently at 886-284 in 38 seasons. Former Boone County Head Coach Nell Fookes leads the list in Northern Kentucky at 686-255 in 30 seasons. She retired after the 2015 season.

Highlands saw four players score in double figures led by senior Zoie Barth's 17. Barth made 7-of-14 shots to go with four rebounds, three assists and two steals. Barth earned the tournament's most valuable player award.

Senior Hanna Buecker had 13 points to go with six rebounds and three steals with sophomore post Rory O'Hara making 12 points and two steals. Senior Chloe Jansen scored 11 to go with four steals and two assists. Jansen and O'Hara made the all-tournament team.

"We were just trying to keep the tradition alive," Jansen said. "We knew that the majority of the pressure was on us and not NCC. We knew what we had to do before the game and come out and play like we always play."

Highlands made 22-of-39 shots for 56 percent including 6-of-16 three-point shots for 38 percent and 11-of-15 free throws for 73 percent. The Bluebirds also had nine assists, 16 steals, 17 turnover and 14 fouls. Neither team had any blocked shots.

NewCath made 17-of-48 shots for 35 percent including 3-of-14 three-point tries for 21 percent and 3-of-8 free throws for 38 percent. Senior Kara Zimmerman led the Thoroughbreds with 10 points. NewCath won the rebounding battle, 27-24. The Thoroughbreds also had 10 steals, three assists, 15 fouls and 21 turnovers.

Highlands led 21-12 after the first quarter and extended the lead to 37-17 at halftime. The Bluebirds led 49-27 entering the fourth quarter.

Highlands drew Covington Holy Cross (22-9) for the 9th Region Quarterfinals on Wednesday at BB&T Arena on the Northern Kentucky University campus. Game time is 6:30 p.m.

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