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 Friday night victory over the Knights.
Highland (6-2) won its third game in a row, all in Mississippi Valley Conference play, to stay a perfect 3-0 in the league. Triad (5-4) slipped to 1-2 in the MVC.
Highland showed off both its size and shooting ability.
As a team, the Bulldogs connected on 19 of 33 field-goal attempts.
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Jake Kruse, a 6-foot-3 junior guard, scored a team-high 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting, including three 3-pointers, while 6-8 junior center Stephen Torre scored 12 points on 6-of-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 them down, and our offense was just clicking tonight. At times, we couldn’t miss a shot.”
Torre’s play was highlighted by two dunks, including one off a nice post pass from 6-4 senior forward Stephen Schniers to give the Bulldogs their biggest lead of the night at 33-19 in the early third quarter.
“Stephen 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.”
Highland’s other 6-4 forward, Sam LaPorta, dished out a game-high seven assists.
Triad seniors Kyle Cox and Beau Barbour shared game-high scoring honors with 17 points apiece, but their production was not near enough to overtake the Bulldogs.
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 didn’t get closer than nine points until the eight-point final margin.