SPARTA — In sports, things
sometimes don’t seem to go as planned. That’s the lesson the Highland
High School boys basketball team learned Saturday night.
After building a 14-point halftime lead against the visiting Centerburg Trojans, the Scots had to hold their breath and come up with a couple of big plays to defeat the Trojans, 53-50. The win ended a two-game losing streak for Highland, and gave it bragging rights in the nonconference rivalry.
“We knew we were going to have our hands full, and we knew it was going to be a great game,” said Highland coach Mike Hoyng. “We were tickled with our first half; we did a great job. They came back in the second half and made it a great game. This is a typical Highland-Centerburg game. It is always going to be close. It is a great rivalry. I hate beating Jim [Simpson], but at the same time, it is a great win for us.”
The Trojans (12-3) managed to escape a first-half funk, which saw them shoot 5-of-27 from the field, and string together a couple of second-half runs. The last run, a 13-4 spurt, tied the game at 47 with 1:08 to play. Skyler Simpson stepped behind the arc and drained a pair of 3-pointers to help close the gap.
“I thought the big difference was we were able to run some offense; we were more patient and took better shots,” said Centerburg coach Jim Simpson. “We did a lot of one-on-one stuff in the first half, and we weren’t playing together. As a result, we had a bad first half. We gave them a little bit of an edge, and anytime you are playing a good team like Highland, that is going to cause you problems.”
Seeing the game flash before their eyes, the Scots (9-2) responded, despite a broken play. Justin Howard flipped the ball to Ryan Barnett on the perimeter, and Barnett fired up a 3 of his own with 52.5 seconds to play. On the defensive end, Highland’s Steven Stooksbury blocked the shot of Centerburg’s Brandt Lambert and passed the ball to a streaking Kiefer Hinkle, who laid it in for a five-point advantage, 52-47, with 20 seconds remaining.
“We’ve got kids that can shoot the ball,” Hoyng said. “When they square up and take good shots, they can do a pretty good job of shooting it in. Sometimes we don’t take the time we need to, but Ryan had a great look at it. He knocked it down, and then we made a great defensive play at the other end. That was the big difference.”
After being unable to get into an offense, coach Simpson called a timeout, and brought in junior Lyle Lindsay. Lindsay, who was playing in his second varsity game of the season, had his number called, and he drained a 3 with eight seconds to play. Lambert was forced to foul Howard, who hit 1-of-2 at the free-throw line to seal the 53-50 victory. The Trojans had one last hurried shot, but the ball didn’t find the net.
“One, I wanted us to execute on offense, and two, I wanted us to defend the way we needed to,” said Hoyng of his thoughts down the stretch. “We knew they were an outstanding team. Jim [Simpson] is a great coach and he does a great job with his kids. We knew Skyler was a kid who could step out and hit the 3, and he did. That is a typical Centerburg team.”
Early on, the game looked to be competitive. The lead bounced back and forth, with Highland leading 10-9 six minutes in. A 3-pointer by Zach Hilborn and a layin from Ethan Godfrey in the final 38 seconds put the Scots up, 15-9, after one.
Highland continued that run in the second quarter, as the Trojans struggled to find their shooting touch. Centerburg went just 1-of-14 from the field in the quarter, while the Scots hit some big shots. Another 3 from Hilborn and a three-point play by Wayde Looker helped them build a 16-point lead with 2:04 to go in the quarter. Simpson hit a pair of free throws to cut that lead at the halftime break.
The Scots shot 13-of-26 in the first half, and were 21-of-44 for the game.
In the third quarter, Centerburg stepped up its defense, and forced eight Highland turnovers. That helped the Trojans get the lead down to seven on two occasions before it settled at nine, 39-30, after three.
“We wanted to get it under 10 after the third quarter,” said coach Simpson. “We felt if we could do that, we could get ahead of them. We got it tied and things were going our way, but they hit the bucket and we couldn’t get something going.”
Barnett was the only Highland player to reach double figures, and finished with 12 points on a 5-of-6 shooting night. He also had three assists. Hilborn and Howard each scored nine points and had four rebounds; Godfrey finished with eight points, five rebounds and two blocked shots; and Hinkle scored six points.
“This was a real sloppy win,” said Barnett. “We played real aggressive in the first half, and kind of backed down in the second half. It was a sloppy win, but we are happy for it because a win is a win.”
Simpson went 8-of-16 for the Trojans, who shot 14-of-16 at the free-throw line, and finished with 21 points. He also had nine rebounds, two steals and one block. Lambert had 12 points, five rebounds and three assists; Drew Osborne finished with six points, nine rebounds, two steals and four assists; and Collin Bumpus had six points and three steals.
“This is a friendly rivalry. I don’t care what the records are when we play each other, it is usually a pretty good game,” said coach Simpson. “We made it the game we thought it would be. We thought it would be close, and we played them the best we could.”
In junior varsity action, Centerburg overcame a 33-30 halftime deficit to defeat the Scots, 64-51. The Trojans (13-2) outscored Highland, 16-6, in the third quarter to pull away.
Lindsay scored 21 points to lead Centerburg, which also got a double-double from Troy Lemke. Lemke had 14 points and 10 assists; Devon Moreland finished with 10 points; and Garrison Myles dropped in nine points. Nick Godfrey and Ethan Zuber scored 13 points apiece for Highland, which also got 10 points from Garrett Ulrey.