Highlands JV girls basketball team loses hard-fought LSMC championship

Highlands junior varsity girls basketball team hosted Cherokee in the Little Smoky Mountain Conference tournament championship at home on Wednesday and despite giving their all on the court, ended up losing 45-29.

Highlands Lilly Bryson on a fast break against Cherokee in the LSMC championship.

Highlands Coach Logan James said they played well, just not good enough to win. He gave Cherokee’s Coach Ann Gardner credit by playing a zone and shutting down opportunities for Highlands to get their offense going.

“Our strengths to our team are getting the ball out and running fast break, and we are better taking people one on one off the dribble in the half-court offense,” said James. “They stay back in a zone and took away our strength and we came up short on scoring.”

Highlands Riley Connor drives to the basket.

Wednesday’s loss was the second for Highlands this year. Going 11-1 in the regular season, Highlands’ first loss was a last second shot also against Cherokee.

“It is tough that our only two losses were the last two games and both against Cherokee,” said James. “I’m proud of how the girls competed this year.”

Highlands Brandy Zagal looks for an opening against Cherokee.

Cherokee is technically in the Big Smokey Mountain Conference, but all the other JV teams in that conference cancelled their JV schedules for the year. Logan said he thinks the LSMC allowed Cherokee to compete in the tournament.

Highlands Coach Jake Page takes a moment after disagreeing with multiple calls by the referees.

Highlands Varsity Coach Jake Page said it’s incredible to have a feeder program go 12-2 and thanked James for a job well done saying he truly focused on teaching the girls Highlands style of play.

“I’m so proud of them and all of the hard work that they have put in and I hope that they continue to improve and keep working,” said Page. “They are very important to the future success of the Lady Highlander program.”

James said the girls start practicing in June for summer practice and camps, and regular season starts in October, so they work hard and it’s a long season.

Highlands Ashlynn Wilson keeps the ball moving along the perimeter.

Highlands Ashlynn Wilson said they should have been more aggressive and stronger with the ball against Cherokee. She said everyone was feeling down after the loss, but brightened up a bit after the coaches made a point to tell each player how proud they were of them.

“I think we had a really good season,” said Wilson. “Everyone progressed and came together. I’m going to miss hanging out with my teammates now that the season is over, but we’ll still see each other.”

Highlands Liv Lewis boxes out for a rebound against Cherokee.

James said good things are on the horizon for this program.

“I’m just proud of the girls this season,” he said. “They improved and got better. The future is very bright for Highlands basketball.”

Highlands Addie Westendorf makes a quick pass inside.

Highlands B Bryson brings the ball down court. Behind her are posters made for Highlands seniors.

Highlands Alyson Dayton drives to the basket.

Highlands Emily Briggs drains a free throw.

Highlands Kaylee Oakley drives to the hoop against Cherokee.

From left are Highlands Middle School Cheerleaders Anna Fox and Nicole Taylor performing at the girls JV LSMC championship.

Article and photos by Brian O’Shea
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