Experience paid off for Highland in the fourth quarter after a slow start and the Bulldogs stayed undefeated with a 50-42 win over Chatham Glenwood in a nonconference game Friday.
Sam LaPorta led the way for the Bulldogs (5-0) with 13 points, but he was one of for Highland players in double figures — a tough achievement with so few points scored.
“We had four three-year starters on the floor so we kind of expect that, honestly,” Highland coach Brian Perkes said. “These guys have been through this. We took some lumps when they were sophomores, we were much better last year and we think we’re going to be better this year. It’s nice to have a veteran team out there on the floor when the other team tries to pick up the pressure.”
The Bulldogs started sloppy, with 11 first-half turnovers and a 5-for-13 start from the field in the first quarter. But Highland took care of the ball and found open players against Glenwood’s tough defense to keep — and expand — a lead.
Glenwood cut Highland’s seven-point lead to 40-36 on Luke Lehnen’s fourth 3-pointer, but Brady Feldman grabbed an offensive rebound for a second-chance bucket for the Bulldogs.
And when Glenwood’s Bradyn Kilby once again trimmed the Bulldogs’ lead to four with a pair of free throws with 3 minutes 9 seconds left, Feldman again came through with a leaner off the glass.
The Bulldogs took their largest lead — 46-38 — on their next possession when Feldman found 6 foot 8 Stephen Torre underneath the basket with a baseline bounce pass that led to a one-handed flush from Torre.
“I thought we had a couple of kids really make some big plays in some tough situations and I don’t know if you get that from sophomores,” Perkes said. “You hope to get it from seniors and this whole group is used to winning games, whether it’s basketball games or football games or baseball games and there’s a lot to be said for that.”
Following a 1-for-2 trip at the free-throw line for Glenwood’s Tyler Estes, this time it was Torre doling out the assist, finding Jake Kruse, who finished with 12 points, for a layup to give Highland a 48-39 advantage with 2:12 left.
“It’s all about making key plays down the stretch and that’s what we did,” Feldman said. “We showed that we’ve been playing together for three years more in the fourth quarter than we did in the first half. It looked good in the fourth quarter and it felt really good being out there.”
LaPorta sealed the win with a layup to give Highland a 50-39 lead with 1:13 to play.
Feldman and Torre each finished with 10 points. Jacob Willis came off the bench to add five.
Highland had just three turnovers in each of the final two quarters and made 12 of 18 shots in the second half.
“It was more of our coach getting on us and knowing we’ve got to keep the ball to score and win the game,” Feldman said.
Glenwood made just 15 of 50 shots, including going 7-for-25 from behind the 3-point line. Much of the night, Glenwood coach Todd Blakeman was pleading with his team to move the ball when the offense became stagnant.
“(Blakeman) was saying we weren’t even acting like a team,” Lehnen said. “Our offense, we weren’t looking very good (and) we were all playing for ourselves and not for the team.
“He explains it like, a closed fist is what we’re supposed to look like and we looked like an open hand.”
Lehnen scored a game-high 17 points and was 5-for-10 from behind the 3-point line. Bradyn Kilby added 12 for the Titans (3-1).
“At this time of year, you always try to get better at something,” Blakeman said. “We’ve got to move the ball better. I don’t care what offense you run, the ball’s got to move. I just thought we hung on to the ball tonight, tried to do too much 1-on-1 and it just kind of killed our offense.”
The Bulldogs begin their Mississippi Valley Conference season Tuesday against Bethalto Civic Memorial (0-4).