By Mark Jurgena
It’s been a difficult start to the Highland girls basketball season. Part of that is their inexperience, part of that is their schedule.
Among those the Bulldogs have squared off with include the top three teams in the Southwestern Conference, Class 2A legendary powers Teutopolis and Breese (Central), and a pair of 9-2 squads in Carterville and Waterloo.
“I think come regional time I think we’re going to have one of the toughest schedules out of anybody in this area and we’re going to be well versed in handling athleticism, handling pressure,” said Highland coach Clint Hamilton. “Also how do you bounce back after a 10-0 run and that really showed against Chatham.
“We were up ten at halftime and Chatham went on an 8-0 run right off the bat with two threes and a layup right off the bat. We had three turnovers in four possessions. We take a quick time out and our girls respond with a 7-0 run.”
Not only that, but the girls have turned up their level of play on the defensive end.
“The last two games we’ve done a really nice job defensively,” said Hamilton. “We gave up 26 to Jerseyville and 33 to Chatham and that’s where we’ve got to play the games. It’s nice to see their confidence perking up when we start doing things right and they get a couple of wins.”
Highland 46 Chatham
The Bulldogs shot 42% from the field and went 8-for-11 from the free throw line to pick up a Saturday afternoon road win at Chatham (Glenwood) on December 11.
“Yesterday, against Chatham, was probably our best defensive game of the year,” said Hamilton on Sunday afternoon. “We had 16 steals and forced 25 turnovers against them. We did a really nice job making it tough on them. They had two kids who shot the ball well, each made two threes, but other than that we took away the paint which was good to see and we rebounded pretty well.”
In fact every player who saw the floor for Highland came up with a steal for the Bulldogs. Abby Huelsman had five, Wilke had four, and Addison Crask had three.
Huelsman came off the bench to fill up the stat sheet for HHS. She had a team-high 13 points, and six assists, in addition to her five steals.
“I didn’t start her because she missed due to illness and I didn’t know how her legs would be. She ended up being our leading scorer and took care of the ball really nicely.”
Abby Schultz and Larissa Taylor led the team in rebounds with seven for both of them while Grace Wilke added six.
Wilke also contributed four assists.
Highland 42 Jerseyville 26
Highland jumped out to a 26-10 halftime lead while Wilke dropped in 13 points and Crask had 11 to lead the Bulldogs to their first MVC victory of the season at Jersey on December 9th.
“We played without our point guard, she was sick, so I was a little bit frustrated going into the game because we had a game I think we can compete in and now we lose one of our better players. But credit to our bench, Addison Crask came off the bench and started for us and had a really nice game.
“Not having her (Huelsman) on the floor is a big difference. It was nice to see some of our kids come off the bench and really step up and make some shots and play well in her absence.”
Highland hit five threes in the contest to help distance themselves from the Panthers. Crask hit three of them, while Wilke added one as did Alex Schultz.
Taylor contributed four assists and three steals to the cause.
HHS did a good job on the boards at Jersey. Wilke and Abby Schultz each had eight while Crask and Taylor pulled down six apiece.
Belleville West 61 Highland 28
The Maroons raced out to a 19-0 lead courtesy of five threes and quickly subdued the Bulldogs at Highland on December 6th.
West went a remarkable 13-for-34 from three and had seven girls bury at least one triple. By contrast, HHS went 0-for-10 from three.
“Against West, we didn’t really do a bad job,” Hamilton said. “On the perimeter, we’ve got to give them a step so we don’t just get beat for a layup. But they’ve got kids who hit step back threes, they were just making everything.”
After one quarter of play, the Maroons were up 25-2.
In the final three quarters, West outscored Highland by only a ten point margin.
Wilke led the Bulldogs with ten points while Taylor had eight.
Taylor grabbed eight rebounds, Wilke took down seven, while Abby Schultz had six.