|Highlands Wins in Overtime|
|PHOTO: G. Michael Graham. Highlands senior Kate Vaught (left) scores and draws a foul in the third quarter. Highlands beat Cincinnati (Ohio) Mercy McAuley, 49-47 in overtime to open the season Tuesday.|
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The Highlands Bluebirds girls basketball team knew it had to overcome one major disadvantage when it crossed the Ohio River on Tuesday.
The host Cincinnati Mercy McAuley Wolves (2-9 overall) had already played 10 games this year because the Ohio High School Athletic Association allowed the winter season to start on time unlike Kentucky where the Kentucky High School Athletic Association voted to delay the start of the season until Jan. 4 as a result of the Coronavirus 2019 pandemic. But Highlands pulled out the win in overtime, 49-47 to open the season.
"It was a good win. But my bottom line to my players lately is we didn't get any scrimmages. We haven't played since March," said Jaime Walz-Richey, Highlands Head Coach. "Sometimes, the scoreboard is not going to be on our side. But things get better each game and I thought we did some good things."
Highlands saw all seven players in the rotation score. Senior forwards Kelsey Listerman and Emma Riccobene led the way scoring 16 and 11 points respectively. Listerman made three triples in the win.
"We started off slow. But we picked it up," Listerman said. "If you are open, you have to take (the shot). But you also have to know if you are on or not. It's about getting it to the right people at the right time. That goes to my teammates. I did the easy thing. I was knocking down the shots."
Mercy McAuley of the Girls Greater Catholic League finished 19-6 last year losing 40-31 to Kettering Fairmont in Ohio's largest class Division I region semifinals. But the Wolves graduated standout guard Lexi Fleming, who is now playing at Bowling Green State University.
The Wolves have a new head coach in Doug Robertson. They lost their first seven games before winning two of the previous three entering the game Tuesday.
Highlands made 8-of-11 free throws for 73 percent compare to 5-of-8 for 63 percent for Mercy McAuley. Sophomore guard Kylee Heidemann and senior forward Hailey Lehn led the Wolves with 11 points each and sophomore forward Izzy Rotert scored 10. Richey said the Bluebirds wanted to contest every shot against a good outside shooting time, especially Heidemann.
Highlands led 11-7 after the first quarter. But Mercy McAuley pulled ahead 21-19 at halftime. The Bluebirds built a 35-29 advantage entering the fourth quarter. Senior guard Kate Vaught scored all five of her points in the third quarter for Highlands.
"It's nice to play (against) people other than ourselves," Vaught said. "It was an ugly win. I think we did well considering it was our first game. We have a lot to work on. But I think we'll do well. I'm excited."
Listerman had two shots in the final 10 seconds of regulation to put Highlands in the lead. But neither shot swished the net leaving the game tied at 41.
Mercy McAuley hit a three-pointer to start the overtime. But after senior post Rory O'Hara made two free throws, sophomore guard Alyssa Harris recorded a huge steal and score for her only two points of the game to put Highlands up for good. Riccobene also had a crucial basket down the stretch and senior guard Emma Mallery made two critical free throws.
Mallery's free throws came after Harris' bucket. Highlands applied full-court pressure and forced Mercy McAuley to throw the ball away.
"We didn't press at all until there at the end," Richey said. "We got some great steals."
Mallery and junior 6-foot-0-inch center CC Shick made their returns to the hardwood after not being able to play in the post-season last year. Shick scored four points and O'Hara had seven.
Highlands travels to Notre Dame on Friday. Game time is 7:30 p.m. in Park Hills.