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Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Bluebirds rebound from first loss of season, now sit at 15-1

Highlands Records 15th Win of Season

PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. Highlands sophomore guard Zach Barth (10) watches during a recent game.
The Highlands Bluebirds boys basketball team (15-1 overall) rebounded from its first loss of the season with a 97-79 victory over the Covington Holmes Bulldogs (6-10).

The Bulldogs have lost six in a row. But Highlands Head Coach Kevin Listerman pointed out Holmes has played teams tough including going into double overtime at Newport Central Catholic before losing 74-58 on Jan. 10.

"They were within four, five points of Beechwood midway through the fourth quarter (before losing 70-54 on Jan.7 on the road)," Listerman said. "They lost to (Bishop) Brossart by three (70-67 at home on Dec. 23). They just haven't found an answer to win a couple."

Highlands scored 85 or more points for the 10th time this season. The Bluebirds also moved to 5-1 in 9th Region play and 8-0 at home.

"We got out of the gate really fast," Listerman said. "We emphasized really getting back to our press and getting the game fast. Our guys responded. We knocked shots down in the first quarter and really took control of the game. We played pretty solid in the second quarter. Third quarter, we got a little bit our of sorts, let them get a little bit too much done, especially offensively attacking the rim. We were never really able to deliver a knockout punch. That's a lot of credit to the kids from Holmes. They keep playing and keep fighting. They have a good bunch down there that can put some points on the board."

Highlands sophomore guard Zach Barth tributed the team workouts with brothers Jordan and Chris Nevels to their strong conditioning. Jordan Nevels is a former Highlands football player. Their brother Ben is the head football coach at Holmes.

"I feel like when we play at home, we get a lot more shots to fall," Barth said. "We don't want to lose. But that loss (73-61 at Conner on Thursday) took a lot of pressure off us so I feel we played more freely."

Highlands made 35-of-67 shots for 52 percent including 9-of-31 from three-point range for 29 percent and 18-of-23 free throws for 78 percent. The Bluebirds also had 33 rebounds, 20 fouls, 13 assists, four turnovers, three blocked shots and seven steals.

Junior point guard Sam Vinson again led the way with 30 points and 11 rebounds for a double-double to go with seven assists and five steals. Junior forward Luke Muller had 23 points with senior guard Hunter Ahlfeld scoring 13 and junior forward Bryson Cody 10.

Holmes made 32-of-54 shots for 59 percent including 4-of-12 from three-point range for 33 percent and 11-of-21 free throws for 52 percent. The Bulldogs also had 29 rebounds, 18 fouls, two assists, 15 turnovers and a steal.

Junior Quantez Calloway led Holmes with 26 points and senior Damario Foster scored 17. Freshman Eian Elmer and senior Amari Mullins scored 10 each.

Highlands plays Campbell County (8-7) in Fort Thomas on Saturday. Game time is 7:30 p.m.

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