With eight seniors in the lineup on Senior Night and the Highland Bulldogs one win from a perfect 10-0 run through the Mississippi Valley Conference, there was no deviation from the script.
League champ Highland finished out its unbeaten conference run Tuesday and senior Austin Elledge fired in 16 of his 20 points in the second half of a 52-45 victory over the Civic Memorial Eagles.
“It’s pretty special,” said Highland senior Luke Thies, who took special pride in the spotless conference record. “It’s a big thing because it might be the first time it’s ever been done (in the boys program). We got (a league title) three out of four years. Couldn’t get it our sophomore year, but it was fun.”
Highland (16-12 overall, 10-0 in the MVC) has won four straight and five of its last six games.
“It’s a good way to end it all,” Elledge said after his final regular-season home game. “We never really got in a flow, it was kind of an even game the whole time. We were just glad we could pull away at the end.”
So was his father, Highland coach Matt Elledge.
“I’m very proud of them,” said Coach Elledge, a long-time follower of this particular group. “I don’t know if we’ve ever had a team from Highland sweep the conference. It was a goal they had at the beginning of the year and it was one of the goals that they were able to accomplish.
“I’m proud of them for that.”
Tied 24-24 at halftime with the Eagles (17-10, 6-3), Highland began pulling away slightly in the third quarter, going up 39-33 on Austin Elledge’s up-and-under bucket in the lane with 3:31 to go in the period. Civic Memorial closed to within 41-40 early in the fourth quarter on back-to-back baskets by JaQuan Adams, but the Bulldogs made sure the ball was in Austin Elledge’s hands for most of the fourth quarter.
He scored nine of his 20 points during that span, including hitting five of his six free-throw attempts.
“Transition is where they score a lot of their points, and driving and kicking,” CM coach Doug Carey said. “I thought we did a pretty decent job of stopping that, but we let Elledge get away from us quite a bit there in the second half. Of course we fouled him in the fourth quarter when we were not supposed to foul him at all.
“He shoots six free throws and makes five of them, that’s a big difference in the game.”
Adams, Adam Hill and Brandon Hampton each had 10 points for the Eagles.
After Elledge’s 20 points, Thies had nine and senior Brode Portell had eight.
Highland had beaten Civic Memorial 69-46 on Dec. 8, so this was a big improvement by the Eagles.
After the game, the Highland players and their families gathered for pizza and to watch the season highlight video that was set to music.
“Last year we had 17 juniors,” Coach Elledge said. “Those kids have played together since fourth grade and these kids tonight, the eight seniors that we have, obviously have a tight bond and it’s a neat group.
“I’ve been very fortunate to coach them and I’m definitely going to miss them next year.”