Highlands girls varsity basketball team came out fired up and ready to play against visiting Blue Ridge during Highlands’ Senior Night on Friday. Highlands won the night with a final score of 51-30. Highlands Head Coach Jake Page said things started off slow, but the girls focused up and got the job done.
“We started out very sluggish,” said Page. “We seemed a bit uptight. In a rival game like this, emotions are high especially on Senior Night, but once we settled down we started to run our offense and get out in transition, we got going. I thought our defense was ok. I thought our girls really focused on helping each other out and started to move their feet to stay in front of them in the second half. It was a good win against a very scrappy, good Blue Ridge team.”
Blue Ridge Head Coach Tim Mayse said the Lady Bobcats played hard and never gave up throughout the game, but things got away from them in the fourth quarter.
“Getting into foul trouble messed with our rhythm and game plan,” said Mayse. “Not executing late in the game with their pressure defense is something we will have to improve on.”
Mayse added that they would have liked to increase the tempo on offense and defense, but that was difficult given their foul trouble.
“Highlands is fundamentally sound and efficient on offense and defense,” he said. “We had trouble scoring in the half court.”
Page said Blue Ridge fought hard and is always a challenge when the two teams meet on the court.
“What we did to establish the lead was just settle down, rebound the basketball, and cut down on the turnovers,” he said. “I think all of our girls did a great job rebounding the ball. We pushed the ball when we needed to and settled it down when we needed to, and I thought our bench came in and played really well. Blue Ridge is a very scrappy team. They have athleticism and some pretty good ball players on their squad.”
The victory was bittersweet for Highlands seniors Hannah Holt and Abby Olvera, having played multiple sports throughout their athletic careers at Highlands School, Friday was their last home basketball game.
“Our seniors are the true example of what it means to be a Lady Highlander both on and off the court,” said Page. “They bring leadership not only vocally, but by their actions. Words can’t really express how blessed I am to coach Hannah and Abby, and how proud I am of both of them. They have accepted me and have done everything I have asked of them with everything they have. I will forever be grateful for both Hannah and Abby. We are really going to miss them next year, but we still have a lot of ball left to play this season and the girls and myself want to finish the season out strong and send them out the right way. But for us to get them a win on senior night is very special.”
Page added that he is fortunate to work with such extraordinary group of young ladies.
“I love the team that I have,” said Page. “They are a great group of young women and I am the luckiest person to be able to coach them and be a part of their lives.”
Blue Ridge is 8-9 overall; 2-3 in conference. They next play tonight at 6 p.m. at home against Cherokee. Blue Ridge has Senior Night against Highlands on Feb. 15 at home.
“We have six regular season games left plus conference tournament,” said Mayse. “We should make the playoffs and finish with double digit wins in the regular season. We need double digit wins to be considered for the playoffs.”
Highlands is 8-12 overall; 2-2 in conference. Highlands next plays away at Nantahala on Feb. 8.
Article and photos by Brian O’Shea
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