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Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Highlands Hoops Comes up Clutch Against County Rival

Bluebirds Win Fourth Straight

PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. Highlands junior Will Herald (15) puts up a free-throw attempt in the fourth quarter in the win at Campbell County.

The game started out as though the visitors would coast to a sound victory.

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But the Highlands Bluebirds boys basketball team (5-2 overall) knew it would turn out to be anything but that. However, the Bluebirds came up clutch in the fourth quarter like the defending state champions have done many times in recent years pulling out a 59-54 victory over the Campbell County Camels (2-4) on Monday.

"We talked at halftime about being the mentally tougher team,"
said Kevin Listerman, Highlands Head Coach. "We faced some adversity in the second quarter. The team that responded coming out of halftime and executed would be the team that would win. I really felt that our guys did a great job of keeping their composure, running our sets and finding the open man then knocking shots down."

Highlands did put up its usual balance with eight players scoring making six three-pointers. Junior guard Will Herald made four three-pointers on his way to 20 points for the lone Highlands player to reach double digits. But senior guard Zach Barth scored all nine of his points in the fourth quarter and senior forward Cole Kocher scored eight.

"Everyone contributed and that's what it's going to take for us," Listerman said. "That's a senior (Barth) stepping up and recognizing that it's time to make plays and go close out a game."

But Listerman commended the bench for stemming the tide in the second quarter. At one point late in the quarter, Highlands had a number of starters out because of foul trouble. None of them ended up fouling out.

The Bluebirds led 18-4 after one. But Campbell County started the second quarter with a 15-0 run to go up 19-18. But with 4:20 left in the first half, sophomore guard Cam Giesler made a triple from the right wing to give Highlands a 21-19 advantage. Sophomore guard Nathan Vinson made two free throws down the stretch. Highlands trailed just 27-23 at halftime.

"We just tried to take care of the ball because we had a lot of turnovers in the first half," Kocher said. "We talked about limiting those during halftime. It's a hard gym to play in so it's always nice to come over her and get a win."

Highlands won the third quarter, 17-10 to go up 40-37 entering the fourth quarter. One key play for Highlands in the final quarter came when sophomore 6-foot-4-inch center Brody Benke followed a Kocher miss and had a big stick-back.

"Rebounds are definitely the biggest thing for us," Benke said. "We can hit shots and pass it well. But the boards and defense are going to win us games."

Highlands made 24-of-45 shots for 53 percent including 7-of-16 from three-point range for 44 percent. The Bluebirds also nabbed 26 rebounds. Barth grabbed six to lead the way.

Campbell County saw six different players score. Junior power forward Eric Davie led the way with 17 and junior forward Aydan Hamilton scored 12. Hamilton averaged 19 points per game entering the game. Junior guard Jake Gross made all three of the Camel three-pointers for nine points.

The Camels made 21-of-47 shots for 45 percent including 3-of-13 from three-point range for 23 percent. They also had 24 rebounds. Hamilton led the way with seven.

Neither team shot free throws well. The Camels made 9-of-16 for 56 percent and the Bluebirds made 4-of-9 for 44 percent.

Highlands plays host to Covington Holmes (2-3) on Friday. Game time is 7:30 p.m.

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