Highlands girls varsity basketball team hits the road and wins at Blue Ridge

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 Jeslyn Head and Blue Ridge Devon Heenan work for position under the hoop. It was Blue Ridge’s Senior Night at home, but Highlands won 49-35 on Friday.

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 Kaitlyn Stewart tries to get open and lose Highlands Julia May Schmitt underneath the hoop on Friday in Cashiers.

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 Charlotte Sherrill looks to pass to Madeline Potts but has to make it past Highlands Kedra McCall.

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.”

Highlands Head Coach Jake Page disagrees with a call by the referee at Blue Ridge on Friday.

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 Chloe Fowler brings the ball up the court covered by Highlands Hannah Holt.

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.

Highlands Chela Green makes a move from the perimeter trying to get past Blue Ridge Selena McCoy.

Blue Ridge Madeline Potts drives hard to the basket against Highlands Bailey Schmitt.

Highlands Jeslyn Head keeps the pressure on Blue Ridge Jade Bryson.

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”

Jersey Retirement:

Blue Ridge seniors from left are Noah Pressler and Carter Ferrin holding their soccer jerseys that were officially retired during halftime. Editor’s note: I think I aged a bit listening to the list of athletic achievements earned by these two gentlemen.

Blue Ridge Senior Athletes:

Phil Arnst

Favorite Basketball Memory: When I made five 3’s in one game and had 13 points in one quarter in the same game. Future Plans: Attend SCC to earn my associates degree in network management and then transfer to WCU to earn my bachelor’s degree in business.

Faith Bryson

Favorite Basketball Memory: Our pre-Christmas practice for this season. Future Plans: To go into a field of medicine or veterinary science.

Jade Bryson

Favorite Basketball Memory: When Devon sniped herself and slid across the floor in practice. Future Plans: Go to WCU and get a bachelor’s degree in computer science then hopefully get a nice job.

Dallas Dean

Favorite Basketball Memory: The time when I made a 3 and then had to shoot a free throw but I didn’t know that, so I ran back on defense. Future Plans: Get my life together, be 6’4”, take my 13th year, and then move to a university.

Fisher Druffel

Favorite Basketball Memory: Talking trash to Levi during practice. Future Plans: Attend SCC or Brevard College and pursue marketing/business degree.

Carter Ferrin

Favorite Basketball Memory: Making fun of Phillip at practice. Future Plans: To attend SCC to pursue welding.

Devon Heenan

Favorite Basketball Memory: All of our locker room talks; love you guys so much! Future Plans: Enroll in SCC radiology program and hopefully get a good job when I graduate.

Selena McCoy

Favorite Basketball Memory: Before Christmas break, we played dizzy dunk and everyone was falling over and being their crazy selves. Future Plans: Becoming a professional photographer who travels the world.

Monika Palestino

Favorite Basketball Memory: At Andrews when Devon nearly caught a fly in her mouth instead of the peanut she threw up in the air. Future Plans: Attend 13th year at BREC and then attend in a four-year university to pursue a degree in vocal music and business management.

Noah Pressler

Favorite Basketball Memory: The whole team giving Phil a hard time at practice every single day. Future Plans: Attend WCU or Brevard College to major in environmental science.

Levi Taylor

Favorite Basketball Memory: Beating highlands in conference tournament last year. Future Plans: Attend WCU or Appalachian State.

Article and photos by Brian O’Shea
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Little Smoky Mountain Conference Basketball Tournament ~ 2019 schedule:

Monday, February 18 at Blue Ridge

Time Gender Team Team
6:00 JV Boys (2) Hiwassee Dam VS (3) Blue Ridge

Tuesday, February 19 at Blue Ridge

(Starting times may vary)

Time Gender Team Team
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)

Time Gender Team Team
4:00 JV Girls Hiwassee Dam VS Highlands
5:30 JV Boys TBD VS TBD
7:00 Varsity Girls TBD VS TBD
8:30 Varsity Boys TBD VS TBD


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