The final play turned into the exclamation point in the heartbreaking loss for the Highlands Bluebirds boys basketball team (1-1 overall) Saturday afternoon in Fort Thomas.
The Bluebirds hoped for a final shot with five seconds left after the St. Henry Crusaders (2-1) tied the game. But senior center Cody Teeten picked off the in-bounds pass and laid it in for the 82-80 9th Region win.
Highlands had a chance to ice the game with 11.7 seconds left. But the Bluebirds missed the front end of a one-and-one and senior guard Wyatt Vieth tied the game on a three-pointer from the left wing.
The Bluebirds led most of the way in the first half. They built a 49-31 lead with 4:31 left in the third quarter after senior forward Luke Muller made a three-pointer. But the Crusaders fought back with a 16-2 run to cut the margin to 51-47 entering the fourth quarter.
The Crusaders took the lead early in the fourth quarter and built the margin to 68-59 with 3:45 left in the game. But a 7-0 Highlands run trimmed the margin to 69-68 with 2:34 left in the game after senior point guard Sam Vinson hit a jumper in the center.
Sophomore guard William Herald made a three-pointer with 1:05 to go in the game to give Highlands a 76-75 advantage before Vinson found him for a transition lay-up with 26 seconds left in the game to extend it to 78-75. After Vieth hit two free throws with 23.3 seconds left, junior forward Oliver Harris hit two free throws with 20.3 seconds left to make it 80-77 Highlands.
Herald led Highlands with 20 points. Vinson scored 18 with Muller scoring 13 and Harris 11. The Bluebirds made 31-of-57 shots for 54 percent and 7-of-11 free throws for 64 percent to go with 20 fouls, 28 rebounds, 11 assists, six steals and 10 turnovers.
Vieth and Bessler led the Crusaders with 30 and 18 points respectively and Teetan had 16. St. Henry made 26-of-57 shots for 46 percent and 20-of-24 free throws for 83 percent to go with 29 rebounds, seven assists two steals and 10 turnovers.
Highlands plays host to Dixie Heights (2-1) on Thursday. Game time is 7:30 p.m. in Fort Thomas.