The Highland basketball Lady Bulldogs ratcheted up its pressure defense to force 10 turnovers and outscore Althoff 23-12 in the second quarter to take a commanding 32-19 halftime lead and never looked back en route to cruising to a 66-46 victory Saturday night to open the 32nd Annual Highland Scott Credit Union Girls Basketball Tournament.
Highland, which improved to 13-6 and advances to face Teutopolis on Tuesday night in the quarterfinals, racked up 22 steals while spreading the wealth around with 23 assists. In addition, the Bulldogs shot 50 percent after converting 26 of 52 field goals.
“Going into the second quarter, our focus was on turning on the heat,” Highland coach Mike Arbuthnot said about his team ramping up the defensive pressure. “We’re playing a little bit bigger lineup now and we’re bringing those girls (freshmen post players Bella LaPorta and Taylor Kesner) along real slow, but I was happy with the minutes we got from everybody today. We played 13 kids and everybody contributed.”
Ten different Highland players numbered in the scoring column, spearheaded by sophomore guard Ellie Brown’s game-high 19 points. She also produced five steals and four assists.
Senior guard Rece Portell dished out a game-best seven assists to go with nine points, four assists and three rebounds, while junior guard Emmy Nyquist picked off a game-topping six steals to go with eight points and four assists.
“I think it’s just how I play, I like to get steals, rebounds and assists,” Portell said. “Defense is what I do and I just find it fun. About helping my teammates get shots, that’s just helping the team win.”
In addition to its vaunted three-pronged guard attack, the Bulldogs got significant minutes and contributions from freshmen post players Bella LaPorta and Taylor Kesner. LaPorta scored nine points and pulled down a team-high six boards to go with three assists and one steal, while Kesner added four points, four boards and one steal.
“I’m glad more people are stepping up and putting a few points on the board because it makes us harder to guard as a team,” Portell said. “Bella is coming alone nicely. You know tonight she finished around the basket well and even had a steal and layup which for a post is a nice asset to have. I like playing with her, and I’m so excited to see how far those two freshman come.
“Also, I feel like our attitudes and intensity have improved the last week.”
Arbuthnot said it is nice to seee LaPorta and Kenser coming along nicely.
“It’s nice to have that size in there and they’re able to get those rebounds,” he said of the underclass post players. “They’re learning and there is nothing better than learning on the run and getting that experience, and we just hope that it pays off for us down the road.
“Bella is very coachable and she works very, very hard to learn and she does a nice job,” Arbuthnot said of LaPorta. “It’s tough being a freshman and trying to compete at the varsity level.”
Tiffany Siekmann led Althoff (11-12) with 13 points.
Also making contributions for Highland were senior Lauren Baer with six points, three rebounds and one steal, sophomore Megan Kronk with five points, three assists, two boards and one steal, junior Mae Riffel with two points, two rebounds and one steal, sophomore Ashlyn Klucker with two points, one board, one assist and one steal, and junior Kayla Eads with two points.
Highland 60, Mascoutah 26
The Bulldogs dominated all four quarters to easily pull away from the host Indians (2-14) and improve to 4-1 in the Mississippi Valley Conference.
Highland’s scheduled game Thursday at Civic Memorial was postponed due to inclement weather. It has been rescheduled for Wednesay, Jan. 24.
Against Mascoutah, the Bulldogs doubled up the host squad 14-7 in the second quarter before taking total control with a 13-2 advantage in the second stanza. Highland also outscored the Indians 33-17 in the second half.
Once again, all 13 players on the Bulldogs’ roster got playing time.
This time, Highland’s freshmen post tandem of LaPorta and Kesner topped all scorers after matching one another with 12 points apiece. LaPorta made it a double-double after also ripping down 10 boards. Kesner also had four rebounds.
Portell racked up game highs with 11 rebounds and five assists to go with six points.
Amaya Keeling led Mascoutah with eight points, 10 rebounds, seven steals and four rebounds.
Also producing numbers for the Bulldogs were Riffel with seven points and two rebounds, Kronk with six points, three assists and one board, Klucker with four points, three assists and one rebound, Nyquist with three points, two boards and two assists, Brown with three points, three rebounds, one assist and one steal, Baer with two points, two assist, two steals and one board, Eads with two points, four rebounds, two assists and one steal, junior Lexi Taylor with two points and one boad, and sophomore Madison Clarke with one point and one assist.
Lebanon 48, Highland 41
Lebanon guard Kendra Bass scored nine of her 16 points to help highlight a 21-4 second-half scoring spurt Saturday as the Greyhounds rallied for a 48-41 win over Highland at the Highland Optimist Shootout.
Trailing throughout the first half and finding themselves down 26-16 after Highland senior guard Rece Portell buried a 3-pointer 45 seconds into the second half, the Greyhounds turned up the defensive pressure and turned loose Bass and senior center Madison Schoenfeld in the final two quarters.
Diagnosed on Friday with a strained IT band in her left leg, Schoenfeld went to work in the post with Bass, while senior Krista Bass and junior Emily Reinneck added 3-point baskets. Krista Bass’ 3-pointer tied the game at 26, and when twin sister Kendra Bass scored a bit later, Lebanon had a 28-26 lead after three quarters.
The Greyhounds (18-0) would not trail again as they posted a second straight come-from-behind win. Lebanon rallied to defeat Okawville 38-31 on Thursday.
Bass also had a game-high five steals to go with six rebounds. Schoenfeld had a double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds.
Also for the Greyhounds, Emily Reinneck contributed 10 points and four steals, and Abigail Reinneck shared game-high honors in assists with seven to go with seven points.
“At halftime, I told the girls that there was nothing to be afraid of,” Lebanon coach Chad Cruthis said. “We were behind the other night against Okawville and came back and won. We made some mistakes, but had we made a few more of our free throws in the first half, it might have been a different story.
“Kendra (Bass) made the suggestion at halftime that we put both her and Madison (Schoenfeld) both down low. She was able to get behind the defense for a couple of baskets, and Madison stepped out and hit a pair of 10-, 15-foot jumpers. I have to give Kendra a little bit of the credit.”
Emily Reinneck added three of her 10 points on a 3-point jumper early in the fourth quarter and Schoenfeld, Kendra Bass and Abigail Reinneck all scored inside to complete the 21-4 scoring run as the Greyhounds grabbed a 37-30 lead with 4:10 remain in in the game.
Highland twice chopped the deficit down to four on a 3-pointer each by sophomore Megan Kronk and junior Emmy Nyquist. But Lebanon had the answer both times and inched back away.
“I wasn’t worried when we were behind. We were behind the other night against Okawville and came back to win,” said Krista Bass, who had five points, four rebounds, four steals and two assists. “We just had to settle down and play the way we know we can.”
Highland (11-6), fresh off a third-place finish at the Mascoutah Invitational last weekend, closed to within three points twice in the late going as junior guards Kayla Eads and Nyquist connected on 3-point jumpers. But with both Schoenfeld and Emily Reinneck scoring five fourth-quarter points, the Greyhounds’ lead was safe.
The loss was the second straight for Highland, which dropped a 48-37 non-conference decision to Central on Thursday.
“We’re struggling a little bit right now,” Highland coach Mike Arbuthnot said. “The first half today, we played well. We had good focus, and we got after it pretty good. Our defense did a good job.”
“But in the second half, we lost our way a little bit and that was disappointing.”
Nyquist and Ellie Brown led Highland with nine points each. Brown also handed out game-tying seven assists to go with five rebounds and one steal and Nyquist added six helpers and one steal.
Also contributing numbers for the Bulldogs were Portell with seven points, six boards, three assists and three steals; Kronk with seven points, one rebound and one steal; Klucker with six points and one board; junior Kayla Eads with two points and one rebound.
Breese Central 48, Highland 37
On Thursday night, Highland held a 28-26 lead at halftime but could not sustain it as the Cougars muzzled the Bulldogs’ offense in the second half. Central outscored Highland 22-9 over the final 16 minutes to improve to 15-2.
Portell topped Highland in scoring with 12 points. She also dished out a team-best four assists to go with one steal and one rebound.
The Bulldogs also received nine points and two rebounds from Klucker, eight points, two assists, one steal and one board from Eads, six points, two rebounds and one assist from Kronk, and two points, three boards and two assists from junior Mae Riffel.
Breese Central’s stats were still not submitted at press time.