The Highland High School girls basketball team battled hard to split a pair of games Saturday and come away with a 4-1 overall record and a second-place finish at the 17th annual Salem Thanksgiving Tournament, a round-robin tourney featuring six teams.
First, in the afternoon game, it took two overtimes for Teutopolis to finally outlast the Lady Bulldogs 63-58 and clinch the tournament’s team title.
Highland bounced back in the nightcap to edge out host Salem 52-49 and lock up second place in the tournament.
Teutopolis (7-0) went undefeated at 5-0 to win the tournament title. Highland was second, Carterville (3-2) finished third, Salem (2-3) placed fourth, Althoff (1-4) wrapped up fifth, and Centralia (0-5) rounded out the field.
For Highland, senior guard Rece Portell, junior guard Emmy Nyquist and sophomore guard Ellie Brown were all named to the Salem Thanksgiving All-Tournament Team.
Portell led Highland with 77 points in the five games for a 14.8 scoring average, while Brown was next on the scoring list with 66 points for a 13.2 scoring clip, and Nyquist totaled 54 points for a 10.8-point-per-game average.
“4-1 is an exciting start to the season, and there have been multiple Highland teams in the past to leave 3-2 from this tournament,” Portell said.
Next up for Highland, which is coached by Mike Arbuthnot, is opening Mississippi Valley Conference play with a road game at Triad on Thursday before the Lady Bulldogs will play host to Jerseyville in their home opener Monday, Dec. 4.
Highland 52, Salem 49
The Lady Bulldogs struggled for much of the contest, but Brown knocked down a big 3-pointer and sank some clutch free throws, while sophomore guard Ashlyn Klucker also hit some big shots to help Highland stave off the Wildcats and secure second place.
Brown showed the way with 15 points, while Portell also hit double figures in scoring with 11 points. Junior guard Mae Riffel just missed double digits with nine points.
“Ellie had a big 3 and some free throws. Ash made some shots that we needed her to knock down,” Portell said. “(The) subs contributed enough when they were in, too.”
Also lighting up the scoreboard for the Lady Bulldogs were Klucker with six points, Nyquist and senior forward Lauren Baer each with four points, and junior guard Kayla Eads with three points.
Teutopolis 63, Highland 58 (2 OT)
Nyquist drilled a clutch 3-pointer with 10 seconds left in regulation to tie the at 49-49 and ultimately send the game into the first overtime.
The first extra session would not settle it, either, as it headed to the second overtime all deadlocked at 56-56. Teutopolis would eventually prevail.
Highland placed four players in double figures in scoring as Portell (17), Nyquist (13), Riffel (11) and Baer (10) teamed up to score 51 of the Lady Bulldogs 58 total points.
Also registering in the scoring column for Highland were Brown with five points and Klucker with two points.
“We know we played hard against T-Town, but we need to play hard every possession,” Portell said. “Arb (Highland coach Mike Arbuthnot) tells us, for us to win, we have to play with heart and never back down for one possession. Emmy hit a big shot, and a few other people had big makes, too. But when it comes down to it, (Teutopolis) executed and made more shots than us. We had plenty of chances, but win or lose, I’m so proud of my team for never giving up and fighting every second, especially in that second half and the overtimes.”