|Bluebirds Win Big to Open Tournament Play|
The Highlands Bluebirds (27-4 overall) cruised into the 36th District semifinals with a convincing 73-18 win over the Bellevue Tigers (17-15). Highlands has been to the district championship nine straight years and has won it the last four seasons. The Bluebirds have won 29 straight against district opponents.
"We talked before the game that Bellevue was our next opponent and we just had to come out and take care of business," said Jaime Walz-Richey, Highlands Head Coach. "We did that limiting them to only 14 points in the first half. That's a credit to our defense."
The huge lead let the Bluebirds play all 15 players on the bench. Senior Zoie Barth led the way with 13 and junior Piper Macke scored 12. The Bluebirds won the rebounding battle, 34-25.
Barth was also the recipient of the $1,000 inaugural Ray Gabbard Memorial scholarship award. Gabbard is a former basketball official in Kentucky.
Highlands made 23-of-45 shots for 51 percent including 9-of-20 from three-point range for 45 percent and 18-of-24 free throws for 75 percent. The Bluebirds also had 10 assists, 14 steals, one blocked shot, 14 fouls and eight turnovers. Senior Chloe Jansen had three steals to lead Highlands.
"We're actually very focused," said Naya Figg, Highlands senior forward. "We've been running sevens (drills) getting our bodies in shape and I feel like we're very prepared. We're willing to work hard and put in the effort to win."
Bellevue made 6-of-34 shots for 18 percent including 2-of-12 from three-point range for 17 percent and 5-of-14 free throws for 36 percent. The Tigers also had seven steals, no blocked shots, no assists, 20 fouls and 19 turnovers. Senior guard Alexis Legee led Bellevue with six points.
The Bluebirds will take on the host Newport Central Catholic Thoroughbreds (18-9) in the district championship Friday. Game time is 7 p.m.
PHOTO: Bob Jackson. Highlands senior Zoie Barth attacks the rim hard in the win at Walton-Verona that was previously played on Monday. Barth is currently ranked in the top five in school history in career points (2,096), assists (431) and steals (419). But Head Coach Jaime Walz-Richey said she'd exchange all that for a region championship.