Last Thursday, the Highland Lady Bulldogs paid tribute to their senior class of Emmy Nyquist, Mae Riffel, and Lexi Taylor before taking on Mississippi Valley Conference Jerseyville.
Highland (21-7) started the night a bit slow, missing some shots in the first half.
After a timely halftime adjustment and a challenge to the team by Highland coach Clint Hamilton, the Lady Bulldogs heated up their defense and parlayed a 10-2 run into an eight-point third quarter lead and a 50-34 Senior Night win.
“We challenged them a little bit in the third quarter to pick up the defensive intensity a little bit and we knocked down some shots along the way,” Hamilton said.
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The Bulldogs swept the season series from Jerseyville with the win and snapped the Panthers 14-game win streak in the process.
Winning the game was important but the night was clearly about the contributions of Nyquist, Riffel, and Taylor to the Lady Bulldogs success over the past four seasons.
As a group, the trio has kept the Lady Bulldogs winning 20-plus games a season each of their four seasons at Highland.
They also helped keep the Bulldogs trending upward again this season. “We really leaned on those three to be leaders from day one with it being my first year (on varsity) I knew having them at the JV level the last couple of years and knew they would lead us in the right direction and they’ve done an outstanding job of that,” Hamilton said.
Playing her last home conference game as a senior at Highland, Riffel noted that it is a night that she will long cherish down the line in time.
“It (the game) meant a lot and especially to get the win,” Riffel said. “To just be able to do it with like the other two seniors here and putting in the work for four years with this group, it just means a lot to get there and have everyone supporting.”
Riffel said that it is hard to believe that her last regular season as Lady Bulldog is almost over and she hopes to have it go just a little bit longer than the first week of February.
“Not really, I think in my mind it’s (the season) not over until really over until it’s my last time taking off the jersey and we’re still going,” Riffel said.
Hamilton said he will miss the even-keel nature of his senior trio as they have kept the club balanced week after week this winter. “They’ve got great personality and every day they come to practice, they give you something to smile about and laugh about,” Hamilton. “They do a good job of keeping things light but when we need to get to work, they do a good job of buckling down and getting to work.”