Something had to give when Highland and host Jerseyville entered the opening game of the Jerseyville Mid-Winter Classic on Saturday, both touting four-game winning streaks.
Jerseyville went on what could have been several game-changing runs to erase a Highland lead. However, each time, the Bulldogs were able to quell the Panthers’ momentum en route to posting a 57-45 win in a game that also doubled as the first of two Mississippi Valley Conference meetings between the two squads this season.
A night earlier, the Bulldogs made the short trip to Troy and nipped host Triad 44-41 to hand the Knights their fourth loss in a row.
Beating Triad and Jerseyville kept Highland’s conference record spotless at 6-0, while winning four in a row overall boosted the Bulldogs’ overall mark to 13-5.
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“Getting these two wins on the road were huge for us,” said Highland senior forward Stephen Schniers. “Going 5-0 on the road in the conference with four home games to end the (regular) season should give us a lot of momentum going into the regional (hosted by Highland). We have to take one game at a time, but we would love to have a perfect 10-0 sweep of the conference like the 2015-16 Bulldogs.”
Junior guard Brady Feldmann led Highland in scoring in both games after scoring 11 points in the three-point win at Triad Friday night before pumping in a game-high 19 points in the 57-45 win at Jerseyville a night later.
“We wanted to start off strong in our conference, because they were all away games, except the first Triad game. So the rest of them are all home games,” Feldmann said. “We still haven’t played our best basketball, and going undefeated in conference is exciting.”
Highland played Collinsville Monday night in its second game of the tournament at Jerseyville. To close out the tourney, the Bulldogs will then take on Cahokia at 6 p.m. Wednesday before playing Quincy Notre Dame at 5 p.m. Saturday.
Highland 57, Jerseyville 45
In addition to Feldmann’s game-best 19 points, senior guard Cameron Altadonna tossed in 12 points off the bench, including knocking down three 3-pointers and then sinking 3 of 4 free throws down the stretch to close it out.
Schniers said Saturday night’s game at Jerseyville (9-8, 2-3) was one of the most physical games the Bulldogs have played all year.
“Their 3-point shooters kept them in the game, but we were finally able to pull away in the fourth quarter,” Schniers said. “Cameron Altadonna was a huge spark off the bench for us, as he made three 3s and had some free throws at the end to seal the deal. Brady Feldmann also had a great game and seemed to get us a bucket right when we needed it throughout the game.”
Feldmann and Altadonna’s clutch 3-point baskets and the Bulldogs’ defensive pressure helped HHS withstand runs by the Panthers.
“We had a couple starters sitting on the bench beside me, but we said, ‘Hey, this was a game where our role players, our bench players deserved to be out there,’ ” Highland coach Brian Perkes said. “They played well, and Cameron hit three 3s I believe tonight and they were huge. But Brady’s a good player; nothing surprises me about Brady.”
Jerseyville had a 10-0 scoring spurt to turn a 30-20 deficit early in the third quarter into a 30-30 deadlock on Kurt Hall’s driving layup midway through the period. The Panthers had not committed a turnover in the quarter until that point and had gotten the home crowd back into the contest.
But Highland turned Jerseyville over on three straight possessions and took advantage, and went on to outscore the Panthers 27-15 the rest of the way.
“We kept telling them we thought on the defensive end was going to determine the game,” Perkes said. “Jerseyville’s a physical team, and I thought our kids responded positively against their physicality, and we certainly responded on the defensive end.”
Jersey got a team-high 14 points from senior Blake Wittman and 11 points from Hall.
Highland also received eight points from junior Sam LaPorta, six points from junior Jake Kruse, five points from Schniers, four points from junior Jack Etter, and two points each from senior Jonathan Dickman and junior Stephen Torre.
Highland 44, Triad 41
Feldmann and Schniers both scored in double figures for Highland with 11 and 10 points, respectively. Schniers also shot 50 percent from the field and added three assists, three rebound and two steals, while Feldmann also had two assists.
Schniers said Triad (8-9 overall, 1-4 MVC) is always an intense rivalry game that brings out the best in the Bulldogs.
“Playing in front of a great atmosphere at Triad always gets us fired up, and everyone contributed to help us sneak out a victory at the end. It feels great to go 2-0 against our rivals,” Schniers said.
Also producing numbers for Highland were Torre with six points, including one dunk, and two rebounds; Kruse with five points, three boards, two steals and one assist; Altadonna with five points, one assist and one steal; LaPorta with four points, including one dunk, five assists and three boards; and Etter with three points, two rebounds and one assist.