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Saturday, January 4, 2020

Bluebirds Record Another Tournament Championship

Highlands Pulls Away in Final 10 Minutes of Game

Twitter Photo. The Highlands Boys Basketball team holds the trophy after winning the City of Middletown Holiday Classic at Louisville Eastern on Saturday.
The undefeated Highlands Bluebirds boys basketball team (13-0 overall) did not want to settle for just one holiday tournament title.

The Bluebirds ventured to Louisville and brought back a third one with a 77-68 victory over the Eastern Eagles (10-5) to win the City of Middletown Holiday Classic. Highlands trailed 49-40 with two minutes, 15 seconds left in the third quarter. But the Bluebirds finished the quarter with a 10-2 run to go up 50-49.

"Honestly, I think it's our conditioning and the mental toughness of this group to just keep playing and keep fighting," said Kevin Listerman, Highlands Head Coach. "Our guys responded late in the game. We really dictated everything that happened. Our defense late third, early fourth quarter was huge."

The Bluebirds saw junior point guard Sam Vinson explode for 44 points to go with 12 rebounds for a double-double. Vinson also had six assists, four steals and two turnovers. Vinson made 11-of-14 free throws.

Highlands senior Hunter Ahlfeld followed with 12 points and sophomore Oliver Harris scored eight. Eastern held junior forward Luke Muller to five points. But he made a big three-point shot during the game.

"We always trust each other," Vinson said. "When someone has a hot hand on our team, if we can find each other, we get them the ball. (Eastern) played really good defense. We didn't get that many transition points. We just keep playing (hard). It's such a total team effort."

Highlands made 27-of-40 shots for 68 percent including seven three-pointers. The Bluebirds also made 15-of-22 free throws for 68 percent to go with 23 rebounds, 15 assists, 11 steals and nine turnovers.

Listerman credited senior guard Jacob Brass for his defense on Eastern's point guard. He also said sophomore guard Zach Barth had a nice steal and pass up-court to sophomore forward Oliver Harris for the score to extend the lead in the fourth quarter. Listerman also credited senior forward Jack Delagrange and junior forward Bryson Cody for their defense on the Eastern bigs.

Junior guard Ben Craig led the Eagles with 19 points and 12 rebounds for a double-double. Junior forward Zach Bird added 16 points and six rebounds with sophomore Christian Spalding putting up 14 points and four rebounds.

"We put our best defenders on their best players to make sure we try to eliminate what they can contribute to the game as best as possible," Delagrange. "I think defensive rebounds have been a big emphasis lately. We make sure we don't let (opponents) make extra possessions off offensive rebounds."

Highlands travels to Newport (9-4) on Tuesday for a 7:30 p.m. contest. Highlands lost won at Newport, 67-48 on Dec. 21, 2007.

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