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Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Highlands Girls Take Arch-Rival Down, Notre Dame, in Overtime

Bluebirds Own Five Straight Wins

Highlands senior guard Piper Macke (1) goes up over Notre Dame sophomore guard Macie Feldman (5) during the 44-43 overtime win Monday.
The Highlands Bluebirds girls basketball team (9-6 overall) has done a great job going 1-0 on a daily basis in recent weeks.

It turned into a matter of seeing if all those improvements could turn into the biggest win of the season Monday against a Notre Dame Pandas squad that came to Russell Bridges Gym with a 14-3 record. Highlands answered that question with a thrilling 44-43 overtime win.

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The Associated Press poll's seventh-ranked Notre Dame has a long list of accomplishments on the season. The Pandas drove to the title game of the Queen of the Commonwealth Tournament at Bullitt East before losing 67-56 to eighth-ranked Louisville Mercy, which finished state runner-up two years ago. The Pandas also have wins over a couple other ranked teams in sixth-ranked Louisville Butler and ninth-ranked Bullitt East. The Pandas also came within six points of second-ranked Simon Kenton on Jan. 6 at home in a 47-41 loss.

"(Head Coach) Kes (Murphy) does a great job at Notre Dame," said Jaime Walz-Richey, Highlands Head Coach. "They're very strong defensively. In that first half, we just weren't confident in ourselves with shots and things. We talked about it at halftime. You have to have confidence in your shot. They came out with confidence and it went in. We played great defense. For the most part, we rebounded the basketball. I couldn't be more proud of the girls. They continued to battle and fought through for the win."

The two leading scorers for Highlands in junior forward Kelsey Listerman and senior point guard Piper Macke along with senior guard Maggie Hinegardner led the way. Listerman scored 17 points with Macke and Hinegardner scoring 10 each.

Highlands made 12-of-30 shots for 40 percent including 5-of-16 from three-point range for 31 percent and 15-of-19 free throws for 79 percent. Hinegardner had three three-point shots and Listerman made 7-of-9 free throws. Freshman guard Alyssa Harris made 5-of-6 free throws for her five points.

"They compete now. They understand every possession matters, which is huge because before Christmas, we let on one possession the other team have wide-open shots," Richey said. "They're understanding that every second you're on the court, you have to give it your all."

Notre Dame hit 18-of-33 shots for 55 percent including 5-of-12 from three-point range for 42 percent and just 2-of-6 free throws for 33 percent. Sophomore guard Brynn Thelen led the way making five three-pointers on her way to 15 points. Sophomore guards Macie Feldman and Lacey Bradshaw scored 10 each.

The Bluebirds also had 20 rebounds, 10 fouls, nine turnovers, eight assists and five steals. Macke and Listerman had two steals each with Harris and Hinegardner recording two assists each before a good crowd.

"I want to thank the students for coming out," Richey said. "Our crowd support was awesome. It's awesome to see the fans come out and watch these girls because they put as much effort as any other team in our (9th) Region. I understand the Highlands boys (16-1 and ranked 10th in the state) have a great record. But we're coming around and they're going to see a great team when they come in the gym."

The Pandas had 16 rebounds, 17 fouls, 10 turnovers, six assists and two steals. Feldman had five assists.

The Pandas led most of the game including 14-11 at halftime. Notre Dame increased it to 33-21 with 6:03 left in the game.

But the Bluebirds chipped away with two Hinegardner three-pointers. Macke tied it with a triple with 2:06 left in the game.

"I definitely think we wanted it. That's why we were able to pull out such a huge win," Macke said. "I think everyone contributed, even the bench. I find it a huge relief to be able to rely on Maggie coming in and hitting threes and the defense just turning it up. I think the whole gym was just absolutely alive. I owe it all to everyone else."

After a Notre Dame miss, Highlands went to a four-corner offense. Listerman dribbled in the paint and found Hinegardner open for a three-pointer from the right corner to give the Bluebirds a 38-35 lead with 36 seconds left.

"I wasn't on in the first half, but my teammates and coaches had confidence in me even when I hadn't made a shot yet," Hinegardner said. "When I made those two threes in a row, I was really feeling it at that point and I had confidence in myself. I thought it was going in and it did."

But the Pandas tied the game after Thelen hit a triple following an offensive rebound with six seconds left in the game. The final Highlands shot of regulation missed.

Listerman put the Bluebirds up for good with 1:51 left in overtime. She recorded a steal and dribbled hard up-court. She absorbed some contact before putting the ball in for the score.

"It's really important, especially when you're playing against physical teams like that to be able to push through their contact and just be able to put it in," Listerman said. "If a teammate wasn't open, I had the driving lane. I took it and finished it."

Following turnovers by both teams, Macke hit two free throws to give Highlands a 42-38 advantage with 38 seconds left in overtime. But Thelen made a triple with 29 seconds left to trim the lead to 42-41.

Hinegardner made one free throw with 28 seconds left to make the score 43-41 with 28 seconds left. At the other end, Bradshaw drove the lane and drew a blocking foul. But she missed both free throws and Listerman grabbed the rebound.

Listerman made one free throw at the other end to make the score 44-41 and Notre Dame used its final timeout. Feldman drove and hit a lay-up with one second left to make the final score.

"We told them to let (Notre Dame) go in for a lay-up because (the Pandas) couldn't stop the clock," Richey said. "Thankfully, they did that. The girls listened to us (coaches). We said to let them go in and don't foul."

Highlands steps out of region play Thursday at home against Grant County (11-8). Game time is 7:30 p.m.

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