|Bluebirds Move Above .500 with Non-Region Victory|
|PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. Highlands junior Leyton Read (4) guards Scott senior guard Grant Profitt (3) in the first half of the non-region game Tuesday.|
The Highlands Bluebirds boys basketball team (4-3 overall) had to earn this win just as much as the Bluebirds did against any of the first six opponents -- all of which are ranked in the Kentucky Sports Radio Boys Basketball Top 25 poll. Highlands is ranked 10th in that poll.
The Bluebirds led just 45-44 with 3:02 left in the third quarter on the road against the Scott Eagles (3-3) from the 10th Region. But senior forward Luke Muller caught fire making three three-pointers over the next 90 seconds. He added two free throws with 21.6 seconds left to give Highlands a 60-49 lead entering the fourth quarter. The Bluebirds then sealed the deal with a 13-0 run to start the fourth quarter on their way to an 85-60 victory.
"All the credit goes to the kids. We talked about making adjustments and stepping up. They took it to heart," said Kevin Listerman, Highlands Head Coach. "We cranked up the defensive intensity. I felt like it helped us relax on offense. You could see the game change on a couple possessions (after Muller's shots). That's what you want seniors to do - step up and make plays when you need them to."
For Highlands defensively, it turned into a matter of containing Scott senior point guard Grant Profitt. Profitt scored 21 points. But he only scored two in the second half. The likes of junior guard Leyton Read and sophomore guard Will Herald helped contain Profitt.
"He attacks the rim really well," Read said of Profitt. "He's a really craft, fast player. He moves the ball on offense really well. It was a big team effort (defensively)."
Junior center Cameron Patterson kept the Eagles in the game in the third quarter. He scored seven of his 12 points in that quarter including the bucket-and-one with 3:02 left in that quarter before Highlands went on its run.
Listerman said Scott ran a two-guard set that is similar to what University of Illinois Head Coach Brad Underwood implemented when he came there in 2017. Listerman said Campbell County and a couple other teams also run it.
"We gave them too many straight-line drives in the first half and a little bit too much transition," Listerman said. "We made an adjustment in our press at halftime and really were able to dictate where the ball was going and who was making the decisions. It really worked out for us."
Scott made 22-of-59 shots for 37 percent including just 2-of-13 from three-point range for 15 percent. The Eagles made 14-of-17 free throws for 82 percent and grabbed 26 rebounds to go with four assists and three steals. Profitt had nine rebounds and Patterson eight.
Highlands made the most of 10 steals and 31 rebounds leading to 17 assists and four players in double figures. Senior point guard Sam Vinson again led the way with 26 points to go with seven rebounds, four assists and two steals. Muller scored 21 and grabbed 10 rebounds for a double-double to go with three assists and three steals. Herald scored 15 and junior guard Zach Barth scored 11 to go with six assists and three steals.
The Bluebirds led 78-53 with 4:10 left in the game after Vinson slammed one home and drew the foul making the ensuing free throw. Highlands allowed some reserves to receive some varsity experience.
Freshman 6-foot-6-inch center Brody Benke and junior guard Austin Duncan scored points in this game. Benke primarily plays on the Highlands junior varsity team.
"It's definitely helping the team a lot getting guys minutes," Benke said. "I just did what the coaches said. I played really good defense, boxed out, got rebounds. Then the offense will come later in my career. It's a lot to get used to. But we can switch into it."
But junior forward Cole Kocher gave Highlands some valuable minutes in the first half along with senior forward Bryson Cody and sophomore guard Coby Kramer. Junior starting forward Oliver Harris battled foul trouble the entire game.
"We have to have guys step up and we're trying to develop a little bit more depth," Listerman said. "The first part of our schedule didn't really allow us to do that. But I thought (Tuesday) we made a conscious effort and I thought the kids responded. We really moved the ball well and finished in the second half."
Highlands plays host to Bellevue (1-4) on Thursday. Game time is 7:30 p.m.
Highlands 5, Beechwood 2:
Highlands won the match at Bellewood. Senior Abby Bach led the Bluebirds bowling a 192.
The next bowling match is Thursday back at Bellewood. The Highlands boys play Newport at 3:30 p.m.