SPARTA — The Highland Scots girls basketball team squared off in a back-and-forth affair against the Danville Blue Devils Saturday, with Highland defending its home floor and hitting enough shots late to nab the 49-46 win.
“Our main focus was pushing tempo, having a positive attitude during the whole entire game and compete,” Highland coach Whitney Levering-Smith said. “That’s what we were trying to focus on all four quarters and if you combine all those together, offensively and defensively, it’s get stops and then try and get some points on that end.”
From the opening tip, the game was a battle, especially in the paint. Once both teams got some traction, the buckets began falling and by the end of the first, both teams were knotted at 10. Bobbi Berger notched six points in the opening stanza, while five different Scots had two points apiece.
Both team’s scoring output turned up in the second quarter, with Highland edging out Danville, 15-14. Gena West had great play in the post to score six points, while her counterpart, CeCe Newbold, also had six points from inside the arc. Between Newbold, West and Highland’s Raven Tilford, points were hard to come by near the rim.
“I told the girls, ‘Don’t shy away if you get blocked,’” Danville coach Matt Proper said. “They’re a long team and a tall team and physical, kind of like us. So going in, knowing that you keep attacking. I thought we did that.”
Returning to the floor down one, Danville put the pedal to the metal, with two 3s in the quarter, one from Berger and one from Newbold. The Blue Devils started to pull away in the third, but the Scots reeled them in a bit. Danville outscored the home team 12-8 in the third, but Highland had put together a little momentum.
“We kept just going at it and working hard and that was a huge difference,” Levering-Smith said.
With eight minutes to go, Tilford went on a tear. She scored three early buckets in the fourth, tying the game at 36, 38 and her final shot gave the Scots a 40-38 lead with 3:51 to go. Danville did not go away quietly, with Brooklyn Hess knocking down a shot to tie the game at 44 with 1:40 to go.
“It was a good ballgame,” Proper said. “I think it was fun for everybody to watch. A couple things go one way or the other and it’s a different ballgame.”
The ball started to bounce in Highland’s favor again and a West shot gave Highland the lead with 36.3 seconds to go. West hit two freebies and Brooklyn Baird nailed one to put the game away.
The charity stripe played a big role in the fourth quarter. Highland was 6 of 10, while Danville went 1 of 6 in the final period.
“When it mattered, we made it, which I’m happy about,” Levering-Smith said. “It makes it easier when you make your free throws.”
West finished the night with a double-double, notching 14 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks. Tilford was not far behind with 12 points and three rebounds. Baird finished with nine points, seven rebounds and an assist and Darcy Walters kicked in six points, three rebounds, an assist and a steal. Brooklyn Geiger, Madison Cecil, Peyton Carpenter and Mattie Ruehrmund all kicked in two points. Geiger had six boards and Cecil led the team with three assists and two steals.
Berger notched a game-high 19 points, including seven points from the stripe, along with six boards. Newbold churned out 13 points, nine boards, an assist and a steal. Hess had six points, five boards, an assist and a team-high three steals. Ally Bower had four points, two assists and a steal. Alenah Boeshart and Hannah Duncan each kicked in two points, with Duncan recording two boards, a dime, a steal and a block.
The loss dropped the Blue Devils to 4-7 on the year with a 3-5 mark in the Knox-Morrow Athletic Conference. Danville returns to the hardwood Thursday on the road against Licking Valley, starting with JV at 6 p.m.
“There is never a good loss and never a bad win, I say, but at the same time you have to ask yourself did we get better or worse?” Proper said. “I think we got better tonight and that’s all we can ask.”
Highland rose to 7-4 on the year and 6-2 in the league. The Scots hit the road Tuesday to take on Galion with a 6 p.m. JV tipoff.