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Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Highlands Hoops Pulls Away from NCC

Bluebirds Win Fourth Straight

PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. Highlands senior post Kelsey Listerman (middle) gets in defensive position along with teammates Emma Riccobene (31) and Meg Gessner (11).

14 N. Grand Ave. 

The hosts knew anything could happen in this rivalry game if they allowed the visitors from the hill to stick around.

But the Highlands Bluebirds girls basketball team (6-3 overall) took care of business in the fourth quarter using a 12-0 run to pull away from the Newport Central Catholic Thoroughbreds (4-4), 54-39 Monday. Highlands has won four straight and moved to 4-2 in 9th Region play. The Bluebirds have won both 36th District games on the schedule.

"It was great," said Jaime Walz-Richey, Highlands Head Coach. "When we have wide-open shots, we have to knock them down. I thought in the second half, we knocked some shots down when we were open. That was huge for us."

Senior guards Kelsey Listerman and Emma Riccobene led the charge scoring 22 and 17 respectively. Listerman made 6-of-8 shots and 7-of-8 free throws to go with four assists, six steals and eight rebounds and Riccobene made two three-pointers to go with six rebounds.

NewCath tried a box-and-one defense on Listerman in the fourth quarter and the Bluebirds took advantage of it. Senior guard Emma Mallery had two three-pointers including a crucial one in the fourth quarter.

"Just realizing that kind of stuff was important," Listerman said of the NewCath defense. "It definitely showed as we started taking advantage of that. That allowed me to become a screener. There were an odd number of people on (certain) sides of the floor and they could potentially take it to the basket."

Highlands made 14-of-30 shots including 6-of-21 from three-point range and 8-of-10 free throws for 80 percent. The Bluebirds also had 14 assists, 18 steals, 11 turnovers and 27 rebounds. Sophomore point guard Alyssa Harris had five assists.

"I definitely think that aggression was one of our biggest challenges this year," Riccobene said. "We were kind of more passive in the first few games. But all the attacks on the basket and the (free-throw) attempts that we had (Monday) really showed that we're maturing as a team."

Highlands started the game without two key players. Senior guard Kate Vaught and junior center CC Shick were not able to play.

It also did not help that senior post Rory O'Hara fouled out. But she had a crucial steal and score during that 12-0 run. O'Hara had six steals.

NewCath made five three-pointers and 2-of-5 free throws. Junior guard Rylee Turner scored 11 and junior guard Emily Heck had 10 to lead the Thoroughbreds.

Highlands led 18-9 after the first quarter. Richey credited junior guard Meg Gessner for helping build the lead with five points having to play more than usual. Mallery made a three with three seconds left in the quarter.

But the Thoroughbreds fought back in the second quarter scoring 10 straight to go up 19-18 following an senior guard Annie Heck offensive putback.

But Listerman made a jumper and two free throws to put Highlands back up 22-19 with 2:02 left in the half. Highlands went to a four-corner offense after that and Turner hit a lay-up in the final seconds to trim the margin to 22-21 at halftime.

"We had a lot of unforced turnovers there in the second quarter," Richey said. "That limits our shot attempts."

NewCath did go up 28-24 with 4:20 left in the third quarter. But Highlands finished it with a 7-0 run to go up 34-30 entering the fourth quarter. Listerman scored the final six points of the quarter. 

Highlands plays another county rival on Wednesday. The Bluebirds travel to Campbell County (1-5) for a 7:30 p.m. game.

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