A week after splitting two games at the Salem Thanksgiving, the Lady Bulldogs returned to Salem and came away with some really nice hardware to show for five early games of work.
On Saturday afternoon, Highland beat Teutopolis 40-25 in the semifinals and in their final game Saturday night the Lady Bulldogs blew out Centralia 59-32 to win the Salem Tournament championship.
The Lady Bulldogs improved to 4-1 with the two wins and the tournament title over the weekend as they enjoyed a fun bus ride back to Highland
“We came out expecting and hoping to win as many games as we could and we thought we could win all five and after we lost a tough one to Carterville, we came back and played well all (this) weekend,” Highland coach Clint Hamilton. “We guarded well all weekend and that was kind of our emphasis coming in.”
The final day of the tournament started off well against Teutopolis as the Bulldogs made it a point to control them with their defense by limiting shot attempts and rebounds.
“When we played Teuplois coming in this morning, we knew that’s a team every year that’s going to be coached really well and they are going to execute well offensively and guard well defensively,” Hamilton said.
“We did a really nice job of being physical defensively and limiting them to one shot and getting the defensive rebound.”
Sophomore forwatrd Bella LaPorta led the way with 14 points and junior guard Ellie Brown added 12 points to pace the Lady Bulldogs.
Highland followed that effort up an even better performance in the evening against Centralia.
“Teutopolis had to beat Carterville in order for us to have a chance to win the championship and Teutopolis ended up being Carterville by two points,” Hamilton said.
The Lady Bulldogs turned up their man-to-man pressure defense against Centralia and raced to a 29-14 halftime lead. Highland began to pull away in the third quarter and cleared the bench and almost every player on the roster managed to score.
“We had to win that game to win the tournament and the kids came out pretty focused,” Hamilton said. “Overall, the kids did a nice job of executing when we needed to and that’s the kind of game where we got every kid on the team got in off the bench and I think we had almost every kid score.”
LaPorta scored a team-high 14 points. Brown, Ashlyn Klucker, and Megan Kronk all added 9 points to round out a balanced attack for the Lady Bulldogs.
Having the best defense ended up being the ultimate key to the Lady Bulldogs having the inside track to winning the championship.
Giving up a tournament highest score of 44 against Carterville and lowest of 25 against Teutopolis, allowed Highland to win the title based on having the lowest defensive points allowed, breaking a three-way tie with Carterville and Teutopolis.
Highland (4-1) had three players make the All-Tournament team at Salem as LaPorta. Brown and Nyquist were all named to the Salem All-Tournament Team.