Highland was not about to let an opportunity to clinch a share of the conference crown slip away against rival Triad Tuesday in Troy. The Bulldogs led wire-to-wire and were never threatened after the first two minutes of the second quarter en route to posting a domineering 66-48 victory over the host Knights.
Highland senior Austin Elledge dumped in a game-high 24 points while senior Chris Dickman notched a career-best 13 points, senior Luke Thies added 12 points to lead the Bulldogs to a repeat of the Mississippi Valley Conference championship. It is also Highland’s fourth league title in the past five years.
As a team, Highland shot 58 percent (28-for-46) and took care of the ball with only eight turnovers. Conversely, Triad had twice as many turnovers with 16, 11 coming in the second half — seven in the third frame — when the Bulldogs powered away.
“The boys shot the ball pretty well tonight, we got the ball inside and Chris Dickman had a great game for us tonight,” Highland coach Matt Elledge said. “We needed him to step up and do some things and he did it for us. He attacked the basket, got some rebounds for us and did some things for us, so we’re happy to get that going because he can really help us down the stretch here.”
Highland (14-12 overall, 8-0 MVC) remained perfect in the league and has two chances to win the MVC outright, the first shot coming Friday night at Jerseyville (13-13. 5-2).
“It will be tough to win down there because they are playing pretty well right now and they got (6-foot-6 Drake) Kanallakan back, so it will be very different than the first time we played them,” coach Elledge said.
Then Highland hosts Civic Memorial (16-9, 5-2) in the regular-season finale next Tuesday night.
“Hopefully, we can get both of those and win it outright and go undefeated, but we still have got a lot of work ahead of us,” Elledge said.
The Knights slipped to 9-15 overall and 1-7 in the conference. Triad’s leading scorer Noah Moss was held two points in the first half and had to finish with an individual fourth-quarter flourish of 10 points — when the game was already well in hand for the Bulldogs — to finish with a team-high 16 points.
Also for Triad, sophomore Beau Barbour added nine points and junior Jeron Pino had eight points.
“I was real happy with how we guarded Noah (Moss) in the first half,” Elledge said. “Then I liked how we came out in the third quarter, got some turnovers, got on the floor and got some loose balls, and we were able to score on them. I am proud of the effort and the end result.”
Austin Elledge pumped in 17 of his game-topping 24 points in the second half and went 9-for-12 from the field to go with four steals, three assists and three rebounds, while Thies threw in 10 of his dozen before halftime and finished with a game-high six assists, three boards and two steals.
Also, Dickman went 5-for-7 from the floor and grabbed four rebounds and senior Brode Portell chipped in eight points, two assists and two boards for the Bulldogs.
“(Austin) took a little time to get going, he let the game come to him,” Matt Elledge said of his son. “He played good and Luke (Thies) played a great game tonight. He got some points early and then managed the game and the ball very, very well down the stretch. He made some nice passes and penetrated and found the open man.”