Highland's Amanda Ponce talks about basketball regional title game win over Mascoutah
Mascoutah got everyone’s attention on Wednesday with an upset of favored Triad at the Class 3A Triad Sectional, but the Highland Bulldogs wanted no part of back-to-back celebrations by the Indians.
Highland lost in the regional final in each of the last three years, but ended that streak by pounding out a 57-34 championship win over Mascoutah on Thursday as the Bulldogs claimed their first regional title since 2012.
The Bulldogs (27-4) blew things open early and never looked back as they beat Mississippi Valley Conference rival Mascoutah (16-13) for the third time this season. Highland senior Amanda Ponce had 13 of her team-high 17 points in the first half while Alex LaPorta contributed 15 points and Madison Wellen had 13.
Highland, which has won 10 in a row, will face Carbondale at 6 p.m. Monday in the semifinals of the Benton Sectional.
Losing in a regional championship game the past three years of my high school career, it’s been frustrating. It’s really nice going out there and getting one for ourselves and heading out to sectional for the first time.
Highland senior Amanda Ponce
“We felt like we had something to prove and I’m just so happy for them,” Highland coach Mike Arbuthnot said. “I’m happy for the seniors and I’m happy for these kids because you know we got beat in the regional final the last two years and it’s nice to be able to get one.”
Ponce said the Bulldogs didn’t really care who they played as long as they left the gym with a regional championship plaque.
“Losing in a regional championship game the past three years of my high school career, it’s been frustrating,” Ponce said. “It’s really nice going out there and getting one for ourselves and heading out to sectional for the first time.”
Highland pushed the ball upcourt quickly and attacked seams in the Mascoutah zone defense. Using quick ball movement and accurate shooting (21-of-35 through the first three quarters), they shot the Indians right out of the game.
“They did everything right, unfortunately,” Mascoutah coach Terry Moeller said.
Ponce closed out the first half by draining a pair of 3-pointers that pushed the Bulldogs’ halftime lead to 31-16.
Highland broke on top 6-0 and kept finding openings in the Mascoutah zone throughout the first half.
They did everything right, unfortunately.
Mascoutah coach Terry Moeller
LaPorta had six of her eight first-half points in the opening quarter.
The Indians had difficulty cracking the Bulldogs’ active zone throughout the first half, sinking only six of 16 shots.
“I’m just going to give a lot of credit to Highland,” Moeller said.
Mascoutah’s top scorer was Kennedy Bryant with 12 points.