MOUNT VERNON — Highland put on a basketball clinic in the first quarter Saturday, rolling to a 55-32 victory over West Jefferson in the Division III Sectional finals at Mount Vernon.
The Scots (17-3) scored the first seven points of the game, forcing West Jeff (10-12) into three straight turnovers. The Roughriders called time-out to slow down the barrage, but they were only able to score one basket in the quarter as Highland opened up an 18-2 lead. The Scots hit on 6-of-8 shots in the quarter.
“We got off to a great start. We executed well on both ends of the floor and that put them in a tough position,” said Highland coach Mike Hoyng. “We came out focused and ready to play and did a great job. We shook things up a bit, did some things they were not expecting. And our execution — I thought we did a good job at both ends of the floor.”
West Jeff wasn’t quite ready to go away, though, scoring the first eight points of the second quarter to close the gap to just eight (18-10). But, a timely 3-pointer from senior Ryan Barnett helped slow down the momentum and Highland still led by 11 at halftime (25-14).
After a quick bucket from West Jeff to open the third quarter, the Highland seniors took control, scoring eight straight points to open the lead back to 17.
“Once we got the lead, I thought we had a little letdown in the second quarter,” Hoyng said. “But, in the third quarter, we played real well. We’ve got nine seniors who have been through the wars. I thought they answered pretty well. We still maintained our composure and made enough to keep it at a comfortable range.
“Then, the third quarter we came out like we did in the first quarter. It was important to get off to a good start in the third quarter.”
A pair of 3s from seniors Zach Hilborn and Justin Howard put the Scots up 18 midway through the fourth quarter. From there, Highland was able to empty the bench and cruised to the 23-point victory.
“We got some good looks tonight. We attacked the basket and got some good opportunities,” Hoyng said. “Good things happen when you execute the game plan. When we do those things, it puts us in a position to have success.”
Howard led the Scots with 15 points. Barnett added 12 points, all on 3-pointers, and Greg Deckling had 10 points. Senior Kiefer Hinkle checked in with a solid game across the board, scoring six points, pulling down five rebounds and handing out four assists. Hilborn added seven points and three assists, while Ethan Godfrey pulled down a team-high eight rebounds.
West Jeff was led by Drew Underwood, who had 10 points and five rebounds. Tyler Jester added seven points.
Highland will now advance to district competition on Wednesday. The Scots will face Mid Ohio Athletic Conference rival Marion Pleasant at 8 p.m. at the Fairgrounds Coliseum in Columbus. Pleasant (18-3) won the only meeting this year, 47-45.