Highland used a 12-2 second-quarter run to break open a close game, and visiting Triad never got closer than the final score, as the Bulldogs celebrated their home opener with a 53-45 victory over the Knights Friday night.
The very next night, Highland traveled to Centralia and upset the previously unbeaten Orphans 47-46.
Highland (7-2) has reeled off four wins in a in row, including its first three in Mississippi Valley Conference play to stay a perfect 3-0 in the league. Triad (5-4) slipped to 1-2 in the MVC.
The Bulldogs will now get an extended break until they open the Mater Dei Christmas Tournament on Wednesday, Dec. 27.
Highland 47, Centralia 46
Junior guard Brady Feldmann hit a 3-pointer with a minute to play to give the Bulldogs a one-point edge that they would hold on to en route to toppling previously unbeaten Centralia (7-1) Saturday night at Trout Arena.
“We have a lot of our team that are football players, so with us going so far in football, we got off to slow start this year and are just now starting to gel and get playing the basketball that we are capable of playing,” Feldmann said. “It’s going to be a fun year, because this team is better. Watch out, because we will get better every week.”
In a tightly contested game, Highland managed to hold on for a 23-17 lead at the break. But Centralia battled back to grab the lead late before Feldmann’s game-winning shot from behind the arc.
Feldmann led the Bulldogs with 21 points, including sinking 9 of 12 free throws. Six-foot-4 junior forward Sam LaPorta recorded a double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds. LaPorta also had team highs with four steals and three assists.
Javon Williams led Centralia with 23 and 10 rebounds. Jordan Maines added 12 points for the Orphans.
Also logging numbers for Highland were senior guard Cameron Altadonna with six points and three rebounds, 6-3 junior guard Jake Kruse with five points, three boards, and 6-8 junior center Stephen Torre with five points, three rebounds and four blocked shots.
Senior forward Stephen Schniers, who is also 6-4, was sick and had to miss the game.
Highland 53, Triad 45
The Bulldogs showed off their size, shooting ability and defense against Triad.
As a team, the Bulldogs connected on 58 percent (19 for 33) of their field-goal attempts. Highland’s defense also limited Triad to just 26 points through three quarters and helped the Knights shoot just 41.5 percent (17 for 41) for the game.
Kruse scored a team-high 15 points on 5 of 7 field goals, including three 3 pointers, while Torre scored 12 points on 6 for 7 shooting.
“It feels great. We knew we were going to be better than last year,” said Torre, who also contributed game highs with eight rebounds and two blocked shots. “We came out and we shut (Triad) down, and our offense was just clicking tonight. At times, we couldn’t miss a shot.”
Torre’s play was highlighted by throwing down two dunks, including one off a nice post pass from Schniers to give the Bulldogs their biggest lead of the night at 33-19 about 2:26 into the third quarter.
“(Schniers) always sees me around the court, so it’s always great when he sees me and I can get a dunk to finish it off,” Torre said. “Us big guys all see each other in (the post) pretty well.”
Schniers finished with seven points to go with four assists, three rebounds and one block, and LaPorta dished out a game-high seven assists to go with five points.
Triad seniors Beau Barbour and Kyle Cox shared game-high scoring honors with 17 points apiece, but the duo had to work extremely hard for every point, and their production was not near enough to overtake the Bulldogs. Barbour also led the Knights with seven rebounds.
Highland never trailed but had a seven-point first-quarter lead whittled down to 13-11 in the first 19 seconds of the second quarter.
However, the Bulldogs were quick to respond, reeling off 10 straight points and 12 of the game’s next 14 points to go on top 26-13 with 3:28 left in the first half.
The Knights never got closer than nine points until the eight-point final margin.
The game-breaking spurt started with back-to-back 3-pointers from Kruse and Feldmann. Then LaPorta scored on a layup off a feed Schniers. LaPorta then returned the favor with an assist to Schniers for an inside basket. Schniers capped the 12-2 run with a 3-pointer of his own from the wing, and Highland was in control for good.
“We had that cushion most of the way, but they hung around, because they are a good team and they don’t quit,” Highland coach Brian Perkes said of Triad. “We knew they were going to make runs at us, and I thought for the most part we kept our composure pretty well.”
Also giving production for Highland were Feldmann with seven points and two rebounds, junior Jack Etter with three points, two rebounds and one assist, and senior Deakon Thornton and junior Blake Barth each with two points.
At a glance
This is what you need to know about the 2017 Mater Dei Christmas Tournament:
- Seeds: (1) Briarcrest; (2) Highland; (3) Central; (4) Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin; (5) Nashville; (6) Okawville; (7) Mater Dei; (8) Mascoutah; (9) Carlyle; (10) Metro-East Lutheran.
- Pool A: Highland, Central, Okawville, Mascoutah, Carlyle
- Pool B: Briarcrest, Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin, Nashville, Mater Dei, Metro-East Lutheran
Wednesday, Dec. 27
- Metro-East Lutheran vs. Briarcrest, 9 a.m.
- Carlyle vs. Highland, 10:30 a.m.
- Sacred Heart-Griffin vs. Mater Dei, 1 p.m.
- Central vs. Mascoutah, 2:30 p.m.
- Briarcrest vs. Nashville, 4 p.m.
- Highland vs. Okawville, 6:30 p.m.
- Mater Dei vs. Metro-East Lutheran, 8 p.m.
- Mascoutah vs. Carlyle, 9:30 p.m.
Thursday, Dec. 28
- Carlyle vs. Okawville, noon
- Nashville vs. Metro-East Lutheran, 1:30 p.m.
- Highland vs. Mascoutah, 3 p.m.
- Briarcrest vs. Mater Dei, 6 p.m.
- Sacred Heart-Griffin vs. Nashville, 7:30 p.m.
- Central vs. Okawville, 9 p.m.
Friday, Dec. 29
- Central vs. Carlyle, noon
- Sacred Heart-Griffin vs. Metro-East Lutheran, 1:30 p.m.
- Okawville vs. Mascoutah, 3 p.m.
- Nashville vs. Mater Dei, 6 p.m.
- Briarcrest vs. Sacred Heart-Griffin, 7:30 p.m.
- Highland vs. Central, 9 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 30
- Ninth Place Game: Fifth Place Pool A vs. Fifth Place Pool B, noon
- Seventh Place Game: Fourth Place Pool A vs. Fourth Place Pool B, 1:30 p.m.
- Fifth Place Game: Third Place Pool A vs. Third Place Pool B, 3 p.m.
- Third Place Game: Second Place Pool A vs. Second Place Pool B, 6 p.m.
- Championship Game: First Place Pool A vs. First Place Pool B, 7:30 p.m.