The Highland High School girls basketball team disposed of two more conference opponents simply as mere formalities to pull within one game of putting the wraps on its third Mississippi Valley Conference crown in a row.
First, last Thursday, the Lady Bulldogs traveled to Jerseyville and mauled the Panthers 69-51. Next on Monday, Highland hosted Waterloo and the battle of the Lady Bulldogs was not much of a tussle as HHS romped over the visitors, 76-43.
Highland, which has won 20 of its past 21 games, reeled off its sixth straight victory to improve 23-4 overall. The Lady Bulldogs have won eight in a row in the MVC to improve to 8-1 and is on the brink of splitting the league title with Triad. But to do that, HHS first has to take care of visiting Mascoutah Thursday while the Knights only have to dispatch of Jerseyville.
Highland closes out the regular season on Saturday afternoon by hosting Taylorville in a non-conference matchup.
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Next week, Highland will compete in the IHSA Class 3A Triad Regional after being given the No. 2 seed in the 11-team Sub-Sectional B behind only top-seeded Salem. Up first at 6 p.m. on Wednesday in the semifinal will be another mere formality game against the winner of Monday’s play-in game between No 10 Jerseyville and No. 11 Cahokia.
Third-seeded Triad will take on No. 6 Mascoutah in Wednesday’s later semifinal at 7:30 p.m.
The championship game is set for 7 p.m. the next night, Thursday, Feb. 18.
No. 1 Salem will host a regional next week in which the other top seed is fourth-seeded Civic Memorial.
Highland 76, Waterloo 43
The HHS Lady Bulldogs flexed their muscles right out of the gate, parlaying eight Waterloo turnovers into a 27-5 advantage by the end of the first quarter.
Despite resting its starters for most of the second quarter and all of the fourth frame, HHS still got 50 points from its starting five.
Highland’s season leading scorers led the way again as senior Amanda Ponce dropped in 17 points and junior Madison Wellen tossed in 14 points.
HHS also received 19 points from its other three starters, junior Alex LaPorta (seven), senior Caitlin Lammers (six) and junior Hayley Taylor (six).
But the first five had plenty of help as seven reserves also marked in the scoring column to give HHS a total of dozen scorers who combined for 26 points.
Junior Alisse Koishor topped Highland’s bench with eight points while sophomore Rece Portell chipped in six points. Also, scoring for HHS were junior Liz Meadows (four), freshman Emmy Nyquist (three), freshman Kayla Eads (two), junior Katie Kampwerth (two) and freshman Kate Marti (one).
Waterloo was led in scoring by junior Taylor Augustine’s 12 points.
For the game, Highland’s defense forced 17 Waterloo turnovers and stifled the visitors to a meager 28 percent (9-for-32) shooting from the field.
The squads combined for nearly 50 free-throw attempts with Highland going 19-for-27 from the foul line while Waterloo went 24-for-36.
Highland received some bad news as key reserve guard Abby Melosi, a junior, was officially lost for the season due to a knee injury.
Highland 69, Jerseyville 51
The Lady Bulldogs took complete command by halftime, leading by 30 points at 52-22 at the break and then coasting in from there.
The starters only played in the first half of the third quarter before sitting out the entire fourth stanza.
Highland racked up 42 total rebounds and shot a sizzling 56 percent (32-for-57) from the floor, mostly on layups. The Lady Bulldogs also rang up 12 steals and dished out 14 assists.
Highland’s top scoring trio of Wellen, LaPorta and Ponce combined to shoot a mind-boggling 21-for-25 from the field and all reached double figures in scoring.
Wellen led the way with 16 points on 7-for-8 shooting. She also logged four rebounds, three assists, two steals and one block.
LaPorta was again the double-double machine with 15 points, also on 7-for-8 shooting, and 13 boards. She also added two assists and two steals.
Ponce contributed 14 points after hitting 7-of-9 shots. She also had four rebounds, three assists and three steals.
Also providing key numbers for HHS were Lammers with seven points, three assists, two steals, two boards; Marti with seven points, two assists, two rebounds, two steals; Meadows with four points, three boards; and Portell (five rebounds one assist, one steal), Koishor (two boards) and Kampwerth (two boards) each with two points apiece.