The Highland High boys basketball team rode a stifling defense to go 3-1 and capture the team championship of the Jerseyville Mid-Winter Classic.
After pulling away in the fourth quarter to beat Jerseyville 58-45 on Saturday, Jan. 13, Highland used a dominant third quarter to help turn back the Collinsville Kahoks, 52-43, on Monday, Jan. 15.
Next on Wednesday, Jan. 17, the Bulldogs blanked the Cahokia Comanches in the third quarter to rally for a 35-29 victory and score their sixth consecutive victory.
Finally this past Saturday, Highland did not finish the tournament like it wanted to as the Bulldogs had their six-game winning streak snapped in a 48-36 loss to Quincy Notre Dame.
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However, Highland still got the overall result that it came gunning for as the Bulldogs took home the championship trophy.
Going 3-1 lifted Highland’s overall season record to 15-6. After a full week off, the Bulldogs will next travel to Breese on Saturday to take on the Central Cougars.
In addition, Highland 6-foot-4 junior forward Sam LaPorta was named the Most Valuable Player of the Jerseyville Mid-Winter Classic.
Quincy Notre Dame 48, Highland 36
The Bulldogs had a rough first half on the offensive end. Highland mustered just three field goals and 11 points the entire first half and trailed by nine at the break.
Highland helped force Quincy Notre Dame into 11 turnovers in the third quarter and chopped the deficit down to two before a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Nick Schwartz allowed the Raiders to take a 28-23 lead into the final eight minutes of play.
That seemed to give QND all the confidence it needed and Tommy Ray and the Raiders would not be denied on this night, despite turning the ball over 22 times.
After Highland senior Stephen Schniers converted a layup to open the fourth quarter, Ray answered with a drive to the basket and an old-fashioned three-point play.
That basket started a run during which Ray scored 12 consecutive points for QND. He scored on a drive to the basket and was fouled. LaPorta was called for a technical foul after the play. Ray missed the free throw to complete the three-point play, but he made the two technical free throws, and then hit a 3-pointer to put the Raiders on top by a commanding 40-29 margin.
The Raiders sank eight of 10 free throws down the stretch to seal the deal, with Ray and Schwartz both going 3 for 4 from the charity stripe.
Ray finished with 21 points and Schwartz added 13 points.
LaPorta was Highland’s lone double-figure scorer with 12 points.
Also scoring for the Bulldogs were Schniers with six points, juniors Brady Feldmann and Jake Kruse each with five points, and seniors Cameron Altadonna and Jonathan Dickman and juniors Stephen Torre and Jack Etter each with two points apiece.
Highland 35, Cahokia 29
For the second straight game, the Bulldogs used a commanding third quarter to turn a halftime deficit into a lead they would never relinquish.
This time, Highland blanked Cahokia 10-0 in the third period to parlay an 18-15 deficit into a 25-18 advantage heading into the final frame.
Although 35 and 29 points are by no means indicative of an offensive juggernaut for either team, both squads were still balanced in spreading the scoring around. Six different players marked in the scoring column for each side.
LaPorta and Cahokia’s Richard Robinson matched one another for game-high honors after dropping in 11 points apiece.
Kruse and Torre each threw in six points for Highland while Schniers and Altadonna added five points apiece and Jack Etter had two points.
Highland 52, Collinsville 43
The Kahoks outscored the Bulldogs 21-13 in the second quarter to turn a four-point deficit after one quarter of play into a 28-24 lead at halftime, only to have Highland take control of the game after the break.
The Bulldogs dominated the third quarter by the count of 15-5 to carry a 39-33 advantage into the final eight minutes of play. Highland continued to inch away in the final stanza.
The Bulldogs received big performances from Feldmann, who scored a game-high 17 points, and LaPorta, who chipped in 15 points.
Ray’Sean Taylor led Collinsville with 12 points. He also topped the Kahoks in rebounds (eight), steals (four) and assists (three).
Collinsville’s Bailey McGovern just missed being a double-digit scorer with nine points.
Also producing points for Highland were Torre with six points, Kruse with five points, Etter with four points, Schniers with three points and Altadonna with two points.