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Thursday, February 18, 2021

Highlands pulls away from NCC, moves to 10-4

Halftime Adjustments Again Work Wonders for Hosts

PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. Highlands junior forward Cole Kocher (2) gets in defensive position in the 82-60 win against Newport Central Catholic on Wednesday.

The first half resembled a good battle between two 36th District boys basketball rivals.

But the Highlands Bluebirds (11-4 overall) took care of the Newport Central Catholic Thoroughbreds (6-5) in the second half in an 82-60 victory Wednesday. Highlands has won four straight in the series and moved to 2-0 in district play.

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"We talked at halftime. We made a little adjustment in our pressure and once we figured it out in the second half with how we wanted to do it, we did a very good job of taking them out of their offense,"
said Kevin Listerman, Highlands Head Coach. "We did a really good job of forcing them into tough shots and cleaning up the boards. Once we were able to rebound, we were able to get out and run in transition and that's what we do best."

Highlands senior point guard Sam Vinson led the way with 31 including several slam dunks to go with 14 rebounds, six assists, two steals and just two turnovers. Vinson made 9-of-13 shots and 13-of-17 free throws.

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A number of others contributed as usual for Highlands. Senior forward Luke Muller made three three-pointers on his way to 16 points with junior forward Oliver Harris scoring 14. Junior guards Zach Barth and Leyton Read made two three-pointers each. Barth scored eight and Read scored six in addition to giving his usual tenacity on defense.

"When we settled down and found the open man, we're able to knock shots down," Listerman said. "Our kids are very unselfish and I'm proud of them. They really executed on both ends of the floor in the second half."

Highlands made 28-of-48 shots for 58 percent including 8-of-18 from three-point range for 44 percent and 18-of-23 free throws for 78 percent. The Bluebirds also had 27 rebounds, two blocked shots, 10 steals, three tipped passes and 15 turnovers.

Junior post Joel Iles came into the game averaging 20 points per game for the Thoroughbreds. Iles scored 24 points, but only eight in the second half. Junior Kaedon Butts added 10.

"It's always key to control the paint, block out and rebound," Harris said. "If they went to stop one of us, another one of us steps up and hits a shot. It allows us to be versatile."

NewCath made 21-of-45 shots for 47 percent including 4-of-12 from three-point range for 33 percent and 13-of-19 free throws for 68 percent. NewCath had 24 rebounds, six assists, two steals, one tipped pass and 17 turnovers.

Highlands did gain some momentum at the end of the first half. Tied at 34, Vinson attacked the rim and found junior forward Cole Kocher for the wide-open lay-in with two seconds left giving Highlands the lead for good.

"I was down on the block," Kocher said. "You have to stay calm, relaxed and not hesitate when you get your moment when the clock is running down. If you're too late, the clock will run out and if you hesitate, someone might block it or make a good defensive play."

The Bluebirds take on the Newport Wildcats (4-10) on Friday in the final district battle. Game time is 7:30 p.m.

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