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Saturday, December 21, 2019

Highlands Hoops Wins First Crown in Years

Bluebirds Overwhelm Panthers

PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. Highlands junior Luke Muller (11) and sophomore Oliver Harris (13) get in position while senior Jacob Brass (5) watches in a recent game. Highlands won its first holiday tournament in 14 seasons with a convincing 92-67 victory over Augusta in the Mike Reitz Classic at Harrison County.
The Highlands Bluebirds boys basketball team earned a huge gift just before Christmas.

That's the first holiday tournament crown since Kevin Listerman became head coach in 2013. The Bluebirds stayed undefeated at 8-0 and won Mike Reitz Classic at Harrison County with a sound 92-67 win over the Augusta Panthers (6-4 overall) from the 10th Region on Saturday.

"We talked about bringing energy (Saturday)," Listerman said. "I thought that the game would open up a little bit more than the game (Friday) and it did. We didn't get out of the gate real well, but we started to see the ball go through the basket the latter part of the first quarter and we started to stretch it out. We were able to dictate the tempo of the game despite them playing a lot of zone."

The start matches its best start since the 2007-08 season. That team lost its ninth game to host Shelby County in a holiday tournament. The last time Highlands won a holiday tournament came during the 2005-06 season when the Bluebirds won four games in a tournament at Carroll County.

Highlands returned to its high-scoring ways in the victory. For the sixth time in eight games, the Bluebirds have scored 85 or more points. They have outscored opponents, 663-479 for averages of just under 83 points per game to just under 60.

Junior point guard Sam Vinson again led the way with 27 points making an astounding 15-of-16 free throws. Vinson also made two triples to go with 11 rebounds, eight assists, eight steals and just two turnovers.

Muller scored 25 points making five three-pointers. He also had two rebounds and two assists. Senior guard Jacob Brass added 10 points.

"It's a big win. It's two games to go down an hour and a half away after a big week of exams," said Luke Muller, Highlands junior forward. "We just played team ball basically. We have good chemistry this year and that's hopefully going to take us a long way. We just move the ball well as a team. That's going to lead to a bunch of points."

The lopsided win let some reserves see time in a tournament atmosphere. Sophomore guard Abe Hils made two three-pointers and sophomore guard Austin Duncan gave Highlands some good minutes. Freshman guard William Herald made a triple for the Bluebirds.

"We really support each other," Duncan said. "At the end of the day, we're striving to win championships. We want to be as positive as we can toward each other. It was one of those moments you dream about since you were a little kid playing in tournaments and trying to be the best player you can be on the varsity basketball team."

Sophomore guard Kason Hinson entered the tournament averaging 23.4 points per game and senior Preston Philpot averaged 12.1 for Augusta. Hinson scored 17 points including 6-of-6 free throws and Philpot scored 12. Seventh grader Chase Archibald added 11.

"I was really pleased on the job we did on (Hinson)," Listerman said. "We really made him earn everything that he got. He got a little bit too much at the free-throw line. But defensively, these two games (in the classic) have been two of our best games."

Highlands made 30-of-86 shots for 35 percent including 12-of-29 three-point tries for 41 percent. The Bluebirds also hit 20-of-23 free throws for 87 percent. The Bluebirds also recorded 19 assists, 26 rebounds, 14 steals and just six turnovers.

Augusta made 19-of-36 shots for 53 percent including 9-of-19 from three-point range for 47 percent. The Panthers also made 20-of-21 free throws for 95 percent. Augusta also had 18 rebounds, one steal and 11 turnovers.

Highlands plays in its own Carespring Holiday Classic starting Friday against Clark Montessori from Cincinnati (Ohio) at 7:45 p.m.

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