|Bluebirds Pull Away in Overtime|
|PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. Highlands junior Will Herald (15) makes a move in a recent game while senior Cole Kocher (2) gets in position.|
Experienced players such as junior guard Will Herald have a huge message for the teammates that are either new to varsity or not as used to challenges like the one faced Friday in western Kentucky.
Don't be scared.
That mentality helped propel the Highlands Bluebirds boys basketball team (1-1 overall) to an 86-79 overtime win over the Cane Ridge Ravens from southeast Nashville, Tennessee in the Marshall County Hoopfest. Highlands won the overtime session, 12-5. Cane Ridge lost 62-43 to Germantown Houston in Tennessee's largest Class AAA championship game last year.
"These players are very well-known players across the country. They're really big," Herald said. "They blared their music while warming up. It can be intimidating if you let it be intimidating. But the most important thing that I love the most about our team is they (don't back down from challenges). A lot of people walk in and see our team with the tallest kid being 6-foot-4 thinking we're not going to do much against a team like that. But since we've mastered our style of play, it's hard to defend and we know that we can play with anyone in the country because of that."
The Ravens features senior 6-foot-8-inch small forward and University of Alabama commit Brandon Miller and 6-7 sophomore forward Da'Ron Hall. Miller scored 22 points and Hall had 13.
"(Miller) is so long. He had several deflections and steals on passes that our guys are able to make against most normal teams. They lead to transition shots and things like that," said Kevin Listerman, Highlands Head Coach. "So in the first half, we had to adjust not only to his length, but (also Hall's length). Once we adjusted to that, we found our rhythm."
Cane Ridge featured balanced scoring. Da'Lynn Lawrence scored 16 points and Joshua McDaniel scored 14. The Ravens hit 30-of-66 shots for 46 percent including just 6-of-22 from three-point range and 13-of-16 free throws for 82 percent.
Both teams saw nine players score each. Senior guard Zach Barth led Highlands with 26 points and Herald scored 25. The Bluebirds made 30-of-60 shots for 50 percent including 11-of-24 three-point tries for 46 percent and 15-of-18 free throws for 83 percent.
But the biggest improvement came in rebounding. Cane Ridge had 35 to 34 for Highlands. Miller led the Ravens with nine and senior forward Cole Kocher had eight for Highlands. The Bluebirds had 1.09 points per possession to .99 for Cane Ridge.
The Bluebirds also had 14 fouls, 16 assists, 18 turnovers, two blocked shots and seven steals. Senior guard Leyton Read led Highlands with four assists and senior forward Oliver Harris had two steals. Listerman said Read and junior guard Seth Ryan guarded Miller the bulk of the game.
"With a guy like (Miller), you want to make him a volume shooter," Listerman said. "He scored 22 points. But he had to take 22 shots to get them. We were very pleased with our defensive effort and our rebounding effort. We did a great job on the glass to basically stay even. That was a huge difference with us taking control of the game, especially in overtime."
Cane Ridge had 18 fouls, eight assists, 17 turnovers, two blocked shots and eight steals. Miller had four steals.
Highlands takes on the McCracken County Mustangs (2-0) in a rematch of the state quarterfinals in April. Highlands won 63-53 on its way to the state championship. Game time is 6:30 p.m. back at Marshall County.