Highlands girls varsity basketball team faced rival Blue Ridge on Friday and things were neck and neck at the beginning of the game, but Highlands ended up taking the victory with a 49-35 final. The game began looking like it was going to be a nail biter, but after halftime is when things started going downhill for Blue Ridge. About midway through the second half, Highlands had established a 27-point lead.
Highlands finished 10-13 in regular season, 4-2 in conference and earned 2nd place in the regular season of the Little Smokey Mountain Conference.
“I thought we had a pretty good regular season,” said Highlands Head Coach Jake Page. “Started off the season a little slow but have picked it up here in the second half of the season. Played some pretty tough teams during the regular season, which I think has made us get better throughout the year. My girls are playing hard and competing.”
Blue Ridge is 12-11 overall, 2-4 in conference. It’s the most wins since 2012 and is the first regular season winning record in more than a decade, said Head Coach Tim Mayse.
“We more than doubled our win total from last year (5 wins last year),” said Mayse. “Thought we are much improved from last season. Our girls work very hard in practice and are extremely coachable. They are fiery competitors on the court. Great group to coach.”
Blue Ridge takes the number three seed in the LSMC tournament beginning on Feb. 19 at Blue Ridge where the Lady Bobcats will once again face the Lady Highlanders. The winner of that game will play first-place Hiwassee Dam or fourth-place Nantahala.
“Tournament is up for grabs in my opinion,” said Mayse. “Any of the top three girls teams can win it. Of course, we have to play a lot better Tuesday against Highlands to make it to the championship game. Highlands is a well coached team, and I think they are better this year than last year.”
If Blue Ridge ends up facing Hiwassee Dam in the championship, Mayse said it would be a tough game.
“Hiwassee Dam is not the team they were a few years ago, however, their tradition of winning is at the top in our conference,” said Mayse. “Their girls are well coached and they are very hard-nosed competitors. They will be tough to beat as well.”
Blue Ridge does not have a girls junior varsity basketball team, but Page said that Highlands girls JV finished 8-5 in regular season, 1-1 in conference. They split with Hiawassee Dam during the regular season and will face them in the championship game on Feb. 21 at Blue Ridge.
“I’m really proud of both teams and how we have competed this season,” said Page.
Blue Ridge Senior Night
Losing to a rival can sting no matter where you’re from, but Blue Ridge had reason to celebrate at halftime as they recognized their senior athletes. Blue Ridge girls varsity basketball team will be losing six seniors this year.
“Losing six seniors is tough,” said Mayse . “They do a good job leading by example in practice. Replacing that maturity with freshmen is always tough, however, our rising freshmen for next year are skilled players and have competed at a high level in middle school during their careers. I think we will continue to improve next year if our girls work during the off-season. Off-season work is key to our improvement as a team.”
Mayse added that it’s tough losing so many players after such a good season.
“I have really enjoyed this season,” said Mayse. “My staff and I have been pleased with the effort our team gives. We have a great group of girls and great parental support. The community has given great support this year as well”
Blue Ridge Senior Athletes:
Little Smoky Mountain Conference Basketball Tournament ~ 2019 schedule:
Monday, February 18 at Blue Ridge
|6:00||JV Boys||(2) Hiwassee Dam||VS||(3) Blue Ridge|
Tuesday, February 19 at Blue Ridge
(Starting times may vary)
|4:00||Varsity Girls||(1) Hiwassee Dam||VS||(4) Nantahala|
|5:30||Varsity Boys||(2)Hiwassee Dam||VS||(3) Nantahala|
|7:00||Varsity Girls||(2) Highlands||VS||(3) Blue Ridge|
|8:30||Varsity Boys||(1) Highlands||VS||(4) Blue Ridge|
Thursday, February 21 at Blue Ridge (Championship Round)
|4:00||JV Girls||Hiwassee Dam||VS||Highlands|