Highlands varsity girls basketball team hopped a bus to Cashiers on Tuesday and took on Blue Ridge Early College in what began with the Lady Bobcats jumping out to a significant lead, but Highlands rallied and came back in the second half with a vengeance only a rival could muster and won 41-32.
Highlands Coach Brett Lamb said their defense was the key, causing turnovers and turning those into fast-break layups. BREC was in the lead 19-9 going into halftime, and the Lady Highlanders scored 17 points in the third quarter and 15 in the fourth for the win.
“I thought they played hard all game,” said Lamb. “But it was a tale of two halves. We played timid the first half and then got aggressive in the second half and pulled out a good win.”
After the first half, Highlands Coach Ryan Gearhart suggested switching to their 1-3-1 half court defense and Lamb said that was the spark the Lady Highlanders needed to get back in the game.
“I’m just really proud of the girls how they did not give up, listened and made the adjustments at halftime and pulled out a great team win,” said Lamb.
BREC Coach Tim Mayse said the Lady Bobcats ran out of energy in the second half and lost focus as a result. Combine that with foul trouble and BREC was in a bad way.
“I thought we were playing good defense in the first half,” said Mayse. “We were able to switch defenses to give them different looks, and I think that was causing some issues for them. We were able to score easily against their man-to-man defense and 2-3 zone. We are going to have success when people play us man-to-man because we can score in many ways against that kind of pressure.”
Mayse added they could have handled it better when Highlands switched up their defense.
“Coach Lamb made a good halftime adjustment by switching to a point zone and half-court trap,” he said. “We didn’t handle the half court pressure well in the second half. We have to do a better job of recognizing defenses and running our sets correctly.”
Highlands was without three of their starters who are currently being quarantined and Lamb said all students and athletes are following guidance from the Macon County Public Health Department.
Many of the Lady Bobcats (and Lady Highlanders) also play volleyball and Mayse said having overlapping sports while adhering to COVID protocols can take its toll on players.
“I told the girls after the game that I was proud of their effort,” said Mayse. “It’s extremely tough to play two sports at once especially when you’re having such a great season in volleyball and you know you have the first round of playoffs coming up the following week. We haven’t been able to really push the tempo in practices because they are having two practices in one day since basketball started. I know they want to do the best they can, but we just aren’t there yet with our conditioning and focus. We are going to continue to get better and get back on track.”
Both BREC and Highlands had games scheduled for tonight that were cancelled due to the projected snow and icy conditions.