A fast start by the Highland girls put them on the road to claiming a 62-28 win at Mount Gilead Friday night, improving to 3-1, 3-0 in league play.
With the score tied at 2-2 nearly three minutes into the game, the Scots went on a 10-0 run, getting four points from both Raven Tilford and Krista Walters to jump in front by 10 points. Mount Gilead bounced back with a three-pointer by Madison Fitzpatrick, but Highland got buckets from Taylor Belcher, Walters and Madison Cecil to go up by 13.
After a free throw by Fitzpatrick, the score would be 18-6 in favor of the Scots after eight minutes. A big key for the Scots was offensive rebounding, as all three of Walters’ baskets in the quarter came off cutbacks.
“My post players stepped up,” said Highland coach Whitney Levering-Smith. “Krista did a good job on the boards. Most of her points came off rebounds.”
Highland would keep the momentum in the second quarter, scoring the first 10 points of the period, as Tilford added four more points.
“Our biggest thing is having trouble scoring,” said MG coach Ryan Stover. “We’ve just got to find a way to score. We’re really young and a lot of times, we have five freshmen playing, but we’ve gotten better each game. In the third quarter, we played hard and made it a game.”
The Indians started to grab momentum late in the second quarter, finishing the first half on a 7-2 run. Baylee Hack started things with a three-pointer and Dakota Shipman would add a pair of shots to take MG into the locker room trailing 30-13.
They would get as close as 13 in the third quarter. While Erica Sardinha scored four points in the first six minutes of the third quarter, the Scots as a team only tallied six in that span. Meanwhile, the Indians got three-pointers from Fitzpatrick and Hack, who scored five each to bring their team within a 36-23 margin.
“We were going inside-out,” said Stover. “We attacked the basket and kicked out for good shots.”
Levering-Smith felt her team simply got too complacent after getting out to a big lead.
“In the third quarter, we came out a little too confident and relaxed and we can’t do that,” she said. “We have to play four full quarters and then get to where we play five, for if we go to overtime.”
After that six-minute lull, the Scots would be dominant the rest of the way, though. They finished the third with a three-pointer by Cecil and a free throw by Tilford and then outscored MG 22-5 over the course of the final eight minutes to put the game away.
Both Walters and Sardinha scored six each in the fourth, while Tilford added four more as Highland pulled away down the stretch. For the game, Walters finished with 14, Tilford had 13, Sardinha added 12 and Kenzie Fuller finished with 10.
“This was the first time we had scoring throughout,” said Levering-Smith. “We were willing to share the ball.”
The coach also noted that her team’s fast start this year, winning three of their first four games, was beneficial to morale, especially after not having a winning season since the 2009-10 campaign.
“It does help with confidence levels,” she said. “Especially since we lost one of our starting guards (Parker Steck) because she blew her knee out. It shows them we still have the potential.”
For Mount Gilead, who got 11 points from Fitzpatrick and eight more from Hack, the key is to simply get more experience for the team’s young players. Stover pointed to Highland’s performance against his team as an example of how much that varsity experience matters.’
“They have four seniors and four juniors and they’ve been playing together for a while,” he said. “Their experience level is very high.”