|Bluebirds Win Final Game Before Crucial District Contests|
|PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. Highlands junior point guard Sam Vinson (3) shoots a free throw in a recent game.|
The Associated Press' 10th-ranked Highlands Bluebirds boys basketball team (17-1 overall) turned this game into that quickly in an 88-59 victory over the Boone County Rebels (4-14). The Rebels have a first-year head coach in Nathan Browning. They've lost eight of their past nine games and have not pieced together consecutive wins this season.
The Bluebirds moved to 6-1 in 9th Region action with their 11th game of scoring 85 or more points on the season. Highlands averages just more than 81 points per game.
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Junior forward Luke Muller led the Bluebirds with 23 points making 8-of-12 shots and junior forward Bryson Cody scored a career-high 19 making 6-of-8 shots. Sophomore guard Zach Barth scored 12 and junior point guard Sam Vinson scored 10.
"Luke Muller found his stroke. They scored first and he answered with a four-point play then I think we got a turnover and he had an and-one so he had our first seven points," said Kevin Listerman, Highlands Head Coach. "Our guys just took off from there (with a) really solid first quarter. (In) the second quarter, we got in a little bit of foul trouble. We talked to our guys at halftime how really good teams come out after half and really put their foot to the pedal. We did that. We had a monster third quarter and really put the game away there."
Highlands made 32-of-48 shots for 67 percent including 12-of-18 from three-point range for 67 percent and 12-of-13 free throws for 92 percent. The Bluebirds also had 21 rebounds, 18 fouls, 19 assists, three turnovers, seven steals and two blocked shots. Vinson added 10 rebounds and 10 assists for a triple-double.
The big lead let the reserves see some varsity action. That included sophomore guards Abe Hils, Isaac Surrey, Austin Duncan, sophomore forward Cole Kocher and freshman guard William Herald.
"I think one thing that makes it so special is that each of the players have different reasons that they want to win every game," Herald said. "Sam Vinson wants a (college) scholarship obviously. I think (senior guard) Hunter Ahlfeld just wants to win. Really, I just want to get respect for Highlands basketball."
The Rebels made 22-of-43 shots for 51 percent including 4-of-13 from three-point range for 31 percent and 11-of-13 free throws for 85 percent. Boone County also had 19 rebounds, 14 fouls, six assists and 13 turnovers. Junior forward Parker Fields led Boone County with 17 points.
Listerman and a number of the players supported the Highlands girls basketball team (9-6) in the huge 44-43 win over Notre Dame on Monday. Listerman's niece is junior forward Kelsey Listerman. She is second for Highlands averaging 11 points per game.
"We have an awesome community that gets behind all of our teams," Coach Listerman said. "The success that we've had across the athletic arena has been unreal in the last couple of years when you look at all of the sports. For us to be part of supporting the girls is an important thing in bringing energy to the games. The atmosphere certainly makes a huge difference. It's an exciting time for Highlands basketball. That's the fun piece. The kids are having fun. The students are having fun. There's a lot of momentum and there's a lot of reason for there to be excitement. Hopefully, we can carry this through and have some deep tournament runs for both squads."
Highlands plays at Bellevue (2-11) on Friday in a 36th District battle. Game time is 7:30 p.m.