Good things happen for Highland when Sam LaPorta and Steven Torre can dominate in the paint and when the Highland Bulldogs can speed teams up with their defense and run the floor in transition.
Such was the case on Friday as the LaPorta and the Bulldogs defense asserted themselves early and Torre took over in the second half as Highland raced to a 63-45 Mississippi Valley Conference road win at Mascoutah High School.
Highland (7-1, 2-0) started off the night on fire as the Bulldogs came out with intense man-to-man pressure on defense and jumped out to a 13-0 lead in the first 1 minute, 52 seconds of the game.
A pair of Jake Kruse free-throws and a Brady Feldmann three-ball ignited the Bulldogs opening run.
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“We jumped to like an 11-0 and then 15-3 lead and we really did a good job of getting shot early and I really think that was the difference in the game,” Highland coach Brian Perkes said.
When the Bulldogs defense wasn’t rattling Mascoutah’s backcourt, LaPorta was hammering the Indians inside for points. LaPorta pumped in 12 points in the first half to help Highland build a 33-23 lead late in the second quarter.
“To start out on top is always a good thing because you control the pace and your game and you get the shots that you want,” LaPorta said. “I think the team was distributing the ball well tonight. A lot of good passes and a lot of good shots and nobody was selfish.”
LaPorta led Highland with 20 points. Torre keyed an 8-2 run in the third quarter with a bucket as the Bulldogs pushed their lead to 45-34 in the final minute of the third quarter.
“I like the way we came back out in the third quarter, they chipped the lead down to six points and I think that’s where our senior leadership stepped up was in the first couple of minutes of that third quarter,” Perkes said.
“We kind of re-established that double-digit lead and then kind of withstood a couple of mini-runs that they had against us.”
After a slow start, Torre, the Bulldogs 6-foot-9 senior post, finished the night strong with 10 points.
“It’s really hard to guard me down low and to guard big Steve down low is darn near impossible,” LaPorta said. “It’s a load for sure.”
Mascoutah (3-3, 0-2) pulled as close as 11 in the fourth quarter as a Jarred Johnson three-pointer cut the lead to 50-39 with just under five minutes left. Highland responded with a 13-6 surge in the final five minutes to settle the issue.
“We know that they are a good team and it wasn’t going to be easy all of the game, but it’s a nice win for us,” Perkes said.
Highland travels across the river to Ladue today for a 5:30 p.m. nonconference game.