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HOWARD — The Highland Scots ran away from the East Knox Bulldogs in the second half to cruise to a 56-29 win in Howard and the win gave the Scots the Knox-Morrow Athletic Conference title outright.
“It’s a huge tribute to us working over the years,” said Chase Carpenter, one of Highland’s five senior starters. “We’ve played with each other all the way up through, give or take a couple guys, but the same core group of guys have been together for a really long time. We’ve gotten used to playing with each other and we love playing with each other. It’s been a blast. It’s really exciting that we were able to compete and win a KMAC title this year.”
Highland started quick out of the gates, with a 16-8 lead thanks to four 3-pointers in the frame, two from both Andrew Wheeler and Mack Anglin. Cody Cockrell hit a late three in the frame for the Bulldogs to cut the lead heading into the second down 16-11.
After 25 combined points in the first quarter, the two teams put up 10 total points in the second. Anglin had four points to lead the Scots to a 6-4 edge in the period to head into the locker room up 22-15.
“I thought we got off to a great start, hit a couple shots early, moved the ball really well and then just got a little stagnant in the second quarter,” Highland coach Chris Powell said. “I thought we got good looks, they just didn’t go down.”
Returning to the floor, the Bulldogs started chipping away at the lead. East Knox cut the lead to 22-19, but Highland started pulling away.
“I thought the key was the third quarter,” East Knox coach Ryan Powell said. “We got it to 22-19 and then the 12-2 run to end the quarter. We started feeling sorry for ourselves, couldn’t get a rebound, fouled on every possession, couldn’t make a free throw and it got away from us.”
The Scots really attacked the boards. Highland got extra looks at the basket due to rebounds and turned that into 12 points, with six coming from Anglin. Getting beat on the glass limited the Bulldogs’ offensive opportunities and the team was held to six points.
“Coach (Chris) Powell at halftime told us to keep playing our game and play as hard as we can,” Carpenter said. “It looked like rebounding was an aspect we were able to control in the second half. Playing hard, I think, was the reason we were able to crash the glass.”
Highland used the same mentality on the boards in the fourth quarter to close the game out. Between second-chance opportunities and free throws, the Scots amassed 22 points in the final frame. The visitors went 10 of 14 in the fourth quarter to seal the deal. Shane Knepp splashed home two 3-pointers late in the game, but the Scots secured the win to finish with a 12-1 mark in the league to win the title.
“First and foremost, winning the league,” Chris Powell said of the team’s goals coming into the year. “Being able to do it outright is really special, especially considering the teams you’ve got to compete with night in and night out. I’m just really proud of our guys. They’ve put in a lot of time and work. It’s not the result of three months of basketball. It’s the culmination of, for these seniors, 17 years of putting the work in.”
The game was won on the glass, where the Scots hauled in 35 boards to only 13 from the Bulldogs.
“It was devastating in the second half,” Ryan Powell said of the rebounding difference. “I thought we held our own in the first half.”
Anglin led the way for the Scots, turning in 22 points, four boards, an assist and two blocks. Wheeler was next in the scoring column with 14 points. Carpenter chipped in eight points and Jordan Bellamy kicked in another six. Branton Howard, Ian Taylor and Noah Dado each notched two points in the win. Dado and Carpenter were stellar on the boards, collecting 11 and nine rebounds, respectively.
Weston Melick finished with eight points on the night, including three from behind the arc. Cockrell turned in seven points and Knepp accounted for six. Braydon Burkhart and Anthony Gilmore each finished with four points. Cockrell and Gilmore each finished with three rebounds, while Knepp topped the stat sheet with two assists.
“There’s still a lot of basketball to be played,” Ryan Powell said. “We just played probably our worst half of the year. I wouldn’t call it our worst game because I think the first half was pretty good and I think the first two or three minutes of the third quarter were good. We’ve got to fix that and we’ve got to come together as a team.”
The Bulldogs, who are now 11-7 overall and 7-5 in the KMAC, will look to come together today in a quick turnaround. East Knox hits the road for a game against Loudonville, starting at 6 p.m. tonight. The Scots improved to 14-6 on the year and they face off against Buckeye Valley tonight with JV starting at 6 p.m.