The Highland basketball Lady Bulldogs rolled to three more victories last week to extend their winning streak to an eye-popping 14.
First, on Tuesday, Jan. 24, Highland traveled to St. Charles, Mo. and fended off the Fancis Howell Vikings 48-41.
Next, on Thursday, Jan. 26, the Bulldogs traveled to Troy and easily ran by host Triad 57-33 to boost their Mississippi Valley Conference to 6-1.
Finally, on Saturday afternoon, HHS hosted Collinsville from the Southwest Conference and upended the Kahoks 63-54.
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The three wins shot Highland’s overall record to 22-3.
“I believe we are playing really well as a team right now, and we’re hoping to carry that out with the rest of the season and then into postseason,” said Highland senior guard Madison Wellen, who leads the team in scoring (18.6), field goals (162), field-goal percentage (50.5), 3-pointers (43), 3-point percentage (58.1), free throws (97) and steals (65).
Coach Mike Arbuthnot agreed that he likes how his team is playing heading into the home stretch of the regular season as they tune up for the looming postseason.
“We’re getting into the last two weeks, and we’re preparing for the postseason, and obviously we’re trying to work on some things and clean some things up,” he said.
Coach gets 100th win
The win over Triad gave Arbuthnot his 100th victory at HHS, and he has not even finished his fourth year at the helm of the Bulldogs program.
“I think it is really special that coach Arb got his 100th win, especially because we seven seniors have been with him all four years,” Wellen said. “I know he puts in a lot of work with us as a team, but also when he goes home watching game film and helping us get prepared for the next game. I think that speaks to the kind of person he is and the kind of dedication he has to our program.”
Arbuthnot said it was very special, but he honestly hadn’t thought about it until seeing a sign at Triad.
“It’s been a fun four years, and I’ve really enjoyed it,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed coming here and people have really treated me and my family outstanding. It was a really good decision for me to come here and have this opportunity. The administration is fantastic, the parents are great and these kids are wonderful. It’s a great place to be with a lot of special individuals.”
Prior to coming to Highland, Arbuthnot coached at Roxana, where, in two different stints, he was 215-205.
Highland 63, Collinsville 54
The Bulldogs used a 20-3 run in the second quarter to take charge, and although the Kahoks (11-9) continued to claw back into the game with adept shooting from behind the arc, Highland was able to keep them at bay.
Collinsville connected on 10 3-pointers for the game, which represented more than half of the Kahoks’ final point total.
Antionette Buehne hit a trifecta 16 seconds into the second quarter to give the Kahoks their final lead at 16-15.
Highland responded with an emphatic 20-3 run over the net six minutes to go on seize its largest lead at 35-19 before Collinsville’s Kaitlyn Fischer buried a triple with 26 seconds left in the first half.
During the Bulldogs’ huge second-quarter spurt, senior forward Alex LaPorta threw in nine points and assisted on junior guard Rece Portell’s layup, while senior center Hayley Tayor tossed in five points and Wellen and freshman guard Ellie Brown each added two points.
Collinsville chopped the deficit all the way down to 39-34 on Lauren Lee’s 3-pointer with 2:43 to go in the third quarter, but Highland again had the answer, closing the frame on a 9-1 run on the strength of Brown’s five points and LaPorta’s four markers to carry a 48-35 advantage into the final eight minutes of play.
After Taylor scored on a turnaround baseline jumper to push the lead to 50-35, the Kahoks had one final push and got within 56-52 on Lee’s 3-pointer with 1:32 to play.
But the Bulldogs answered again as Taylor scored on a layup off a nice feed from Brown, and four HHS players combined to sink 7 of 10 free throws to slam the door on Collinsville.
Highland placed four players in double figures, led by LaPorta with 17 points. Joining her in double digits were Wellen (14), Taylor (11) and Brown (10) while Portell narrowly missed the double-figure club with nine points.
For the Kahoks, Lee scored 14 points and had four 3-pointers and Buehne added 13 points and three treys.
“You have to give a lot of credit to Collinsville. They shot the ball very well, and they made 10 threes and a couple of them were bombs,” Arbuthnot said. “I thought our kids played hard and it was a good effort. I think the most impressive thing about today’s win is that we had four people in double figures, and we had one with nine (points). So we had real balanced scoring, which is nice to see, because I don’t wan to be just one-dimensional or two-dimensional or anything like that.”
Arbuthnot said it was good to see LaPorta be aggressive on the offensive end of the floor.
“We want her to be aggressive, and we want her natural talent, because she is a very talented player, and we want to be able to utilize her and isolate her and Madison (Wellen) as much as we can,” he said.
Senior Abby Melosi had two points for the Bulldogs.
Highland 57, Triad 33
The Bulldogs had all but put the game by halftime after posting lopsided quarters of 16-4 and 18-7 to go on top by 23 points at the break.
But Highland did not let up yet, building its lead up to 53-21 through three quarters before calling the dogs off.
HHS used 13 players in the game, with eight of them scoring points and three of them reaching double digits.
Showing the way was Brown with 12 points. Right on her heels were LaPorta and Wellen with 11 and 10 points, respectively. LaPorta also logged game highs in rebounds (eight) and steals (four) and shared game-best honors with Brown with four assists apiece.
Triad, which fell to 10-9 overall and 3-4 in the MVC, got 10 points from Caleigh Miller and eight markers from Hannah Johnson.
Also cracking the scoring column for HHS was Taylor with nine points, Melosi with six points, Portell with four points, senior Alisse Koishor with three points and junior Lauren Baer with two points.
Highland 48, Francis Howell 41
The Bulldogs won despite struggling on offense. Highland shot just 25 percent (13-for-52) from the field — including going 3-for-12 from behind the arc — and committed 17 turnovers.
But HHS flashed some impressive defense and rebounding. The Bulldogs gobbled up 38 rebounds and racked up 13 steals.
LaPorta grabbed a game-high 15 rebounds, six on the offensive end, and intercepted a game-best six steals to go along with two assists and one blocked shot. Those numbers helped offset her connecting on just 4-of-15 field goals and committing a team-high five turnovers.
Also hitting double digits in scoring for Highland were Wellen and Brown with 13 and 11 points, respectively.
But the duo also struggled shooting the ball after combining to make only 6-of-20 shots. Wellen did also chip in four boards, three assists and two steals and Brown also added three assists, two steals and one rebound.
Taylor finished with nine points on 2-for-11 shooting. She also had eight rebounds, two blocks and two steals.
In addition, Portell added two points, four rebounds, one assist and one steal, and Baer had two boards and one block.