Nothing was settled until a last-second 3-pointer clanged off the rim Monday as the Highland Bulldogs held off Mascoutah 36-33 to advance to the semifinals of the Illinois High School Association Class 3A Mater Dei Regional.
Mascoutah used a 10-2 run to help wipe out a 12-point deficit in the third quarter. The Indians (10-20) got as close as 32-31 with 3:33 remaining on a shot by Nathan Forsyth, but Highland’s Sam LaPorta scored with 46 seconds remaining and added another free throw to help the Bulldogs pull it out.
LaPorta finished with game highs of 15 points and 12 rebounds. He also contributed two assists and one steal.
Mascoutah’s Jaydon Stewart missed two 3-pointers in the closing seconds and only then could the Bulldogs celebrate the victory.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” said Highland coach Brian Perkes, whose squad split four games this season with Mississippi Valley Conference rival Mascoutah. “We had an idea they were going to slow the game down and they did, it made each possession very important. We had too many unforced turnovers and we took some bad shots.
“I thought we had them on the ropes and their quickness got them back in the game. They hit some big 3s.”
HIghland (10-19) will face Mater Dei (17-11) at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the regional semifinals. Perkes was Mater Dei’s head coach from 2005 to 2013 before being replaced by current Knights coach Ron Schadegg. The two teams have not faced each other this season.
The Indians were playing without second-leading leader Blake Weiss, who suffered a fractured wrist and missed the final six games. Highland held Mascoutah scoring leader Malik Green to one point and no field goals.
Noah Brandon and Forsyth each hit 3-pointers in the third quarter to help fuel the Mascoutah comeback. Stewart cut Highland’s lead to 35-33 with 34.6 seconds remaining, but LaPorta hit the first of two free throws 10 seconds later to restore Highland’s three-point advantage.
After another Mascoutah miss, Highland missed a free throw. The Indians got the ball inbounds at their own end with 1.9 seconds left, but Stewart’s long 3-point try was short and glanced off the rim.
“They were one possession away from sending the game into overtime,” Perkes said. “Fortunately for us we won and we move on. It wasn’t pretty, but we do advance.”
Along with LaPorta’s 15 points and 12 boards, Highland got nine points, two rebounds, one assist and one steal from sophomore Brady Feldmann and seven points, three boards and two assists from Jake Kruse.
Glen Gibbons led Mascoutah with 12 points and Stewart had eight points.
Feldman’s 3-pointer gave Highland a 26-14 lead midway through the third quarter.
Also contributing numbers for the Bulldogs were junior Stephen Schniers with three points, and one steal; sophomore Stephen Torre with two points, four rebounds and one assist; and a team-best three assists from sophomore Jon Dickman.
Highland settles for share of MVC crown
The Bulldogs had their three-game winning streak snapped and were forced to settle for a share of the Mississippi Valley Conference title after falling at Civic Memorial on Monday, Feb. 20.
The next night, Feb. 21, Triad clinched a share of the conference championship with a 49-43 win at Mascoutah.
Civic Memorial made it a three-way tie after winning at Waterloo, 70-66, on Friday.
Highland, Triad and CM all finished with matching 7-3 records in the MVC.
Then on Wednesday, Feb. 22, the Bulldogs dropped a 57-46 non-conference game at Columbia to finish the regular season with a 9-18 record.
Highland opened post-season play by traveling to Breese on Monday to take on Mascoutah in a quarterfinal game of the Illinois High School Association Breese Mater Dei Regional. The winner of the quarterfinal game will face host Mater Dei on Wednesday.
Civic Memorial 51, Highland 41
Civic Memorial 6-foot-2 junior Jaquan Adams played the starring role for the Eagles with game highs of 28 points and 14 rebounds, but Camryn Gerhardt performed admirably in the supporting role as his back-to-back baskets late in the third quarter put his team out in front for the the first time since 1-0.
Gerhardt’s 3-pointer gave the Eagles the lead for good at 31-30 with 1:32 remaining in the third quarter.
Then Civic Memorial’s Brandon Hampton stole the the ball and fed Gerhardt for a layup that put the Eagles up by three heading into the final quarter of play.
Other than the brief 1-0 start to the contest, Highland led for more than 2 1/2 quarters.
In the first quarter, the Eagles only made two field goals while HHS sophomore Jake Kruse knocked down two 3-pointers and fellow sophomore Stephen Torre converted two layups to help the Bulldogs build a 12-6 advantage after one quarter of play.
In the second quarter, HHS led by as many as eight points on two occasions — 14-6 and 20-12.
Adams did not score in the first quarter but he lit up Highland for 10 points in the second stanza to help chop Highland’s lead down to 20-18 by halftime.
The Bulldogs nudged their lead back up to 29-24 on a pair of free throws from 6-3 junior Stephen Schniers about halfway through the third quarter before HHS’ offense went quiet and mustered just five points in more than nine minutes.
Civic Memorial rallied, closing out the third quarter on a 9-1 run capped off by back-to-back buckets first from Adams and then from Gerhardt to snatch the lead for good.
Adams, who also pumped in 10 points in the third period, tossed in another eight points in the fourth frame to help the Eagles pull away, with his final two baskets both pushing the margin up to double digits.
Adams made 8-of-10 free throws in the game, including sinking all four of his attempts in the fourth quarter.
Schniers and 6-3 sophomore Sam LaPorta shared team-high honors with 14 points apiece. LaPorta also pulled down a team-best 10 rebounds and two steals, while Schniers hit 4-of-5 field goals to go with four rebounds and two assists.
Highland shot 39 percent (12-for-25) and committed 13 turnovers, while Civic Memorial shot 47 percent and turned the ball over only seven times.
Also producing numbers for the Bulldogs were sophomore Jake Kruse with six points, four rebounds and two assists; sophomore Stephen Torre with four points and one rebound; Feldmann with two points, four boards and two assists;and junior Cameron Altadonna with one point, one rebound and one assist.
Columbia 57, Highland 46
The Bulldogs led 12-9 after the first quarter and 19-15 at the half, but the Eagles turned the tables in the third quarter, outscoring Highland 17-8 to take control to pull away.
The fourth quarter was played more at a frantic track-style pace with both teams lighting up the scoreboard. Columbia poured in 25 points and the Bulldogs countered with 19.
The Eagles put three players in double figures, led by Jordan Holmes with 19 points. He was followed closely by Jon Peterson with 18 points, and Brennen van Breusegen also reached double digits with a dozen points.
Highland had two players score in double figures, with Feldmann and LaPorta finishing close together with 16 and 15 points, respectively.
Also scoring for the Bulldogs were Schniers with eight points, Kruse with five points and Altadonna with two points.