Highland recovered from a slow start to earn a road KMAC girls’ basketball win against Northmor on Saturday by a 56-50 margin.

The Golden Knights finished the first quarter on an 11-0 run to lead 15-8. After falling in an 8-4 hole, the team got seven points from Lexi Wenger, as well as two each from Juliana Ditullio and Reagan Swihart to hold a seven-point lead after eight minutes.

“We started off good,” said Northmor coach Freddy Beachy. “In our last three or four games, we didn’t start off well. We harped at practice about starting fast, but they forget there’s four quarters in a game.”

It didn’t take long for Highland to erase that deficit. Gena West opened the second period with a pair of free throws. Peyton Carpenter and Madison Cecil followed with baskets and West added another foul shot to tie things at 15 three minutes into the quarter.

Lexi Wenger scored on a three-point shot to put the Golden Knights back in front, but Highland responded with back-to-back scores from Brooklyn Baird, two free throws from Darcie Walters and a Kennedy Altizer three-pointer to surge in front. A bucket by Ditullio brought Northmor within a 24-20 margin, but Savannah Fitzpatrick ended the half with a three-pointer to give the Scots a seven-point lead.

“I told the players we have to go out and play our basketball,” is what Highland coach Whitney Levering Smith said to her players between the first two quarters. “Our full-court press is what our offense builds off of. We had 19 points in the second quarter, which was huge. Momentum shifted our way and we were able to keep the lead the rest of the way.”

Beachy also felt that second quarter had a huge impact on the game.

“They outscored us 19-5 in the second,” he said. “I don’t think many teams win it when outscored by that margin.”

Throughout the second half, Northmor made several small runs to get back into the game, but Highland always had an answer. When two free throws by Wenger and a basket by Taylor Linkous turned an eight-point deficit into a 33-29 game midway through the third quarter, the Scots responded with a three-pointer by Baird and a put-back by West to go in front by nine.

Northmor would get within a 40-34 margin after the third quarter. While Highland would lead by as many as nine at 48-39, Northmor would get as close as three late in the game. Trailing 53-45 with 1:56 remaining, Wenger hit one of two free throws and Paige Caudill added two foul shots in four attempts. Her last attempt was missed, but rebounded by Northmor, leading to a Wenger basket that made the score 53-50 with 56 seconds left.

Unfortunately for Northmor, they would not be able to score again in the contest. Baird finished the game’s scoring by connecting three times in four free throw attempts to help the Scots finish the game on top.

Beachy found one positive in the game — the simple fact that his varsity squad is back healthy after some girls missed time due to injury or sickness.

“We’ve finally got everyone back from injury,” said the coach. “We’ve had injuries and a couple girls sick, but every team is going through that. We have a lot of sophomores getting playing time. I have to tell myself that when they make mistakes, but we’ll get better.”

Wenger led Northmor with 21 points, while Swihart added nine. For Highland, West led the team with 14, Baird scored 13 and Cecil added eight. Levering Smith said that those three girls have been huge for the team this season.

“We normally have that trio with Gena, Brooklyn and Madison,” she said. “Gena had 14, Brooklyn had 13 and Madison had four assists, which is pretty good and a lot of that came from our transitional runs.”

Brooklyn Baird looks for a teammate to pass the ball to in her team’s Saturday win at Northmor.
https://www.morrowcountysentinel.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/29/2020/01/web1_brooklynbaird.jpgBrooklyn Baird looks for a teammate to pass the ball to in her team’s Saturday win at Northmor. Rob Hamilton | Morrow County Sentinel

Northmor’s Taylor Linkous controls the ball in her team’s Saturday game with Highland.
https://www.morrowcountysentinel.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/29/2020/01/web1_taylorlinkous.jpgNorthmor’s Taylor Linkous controls the ball in her team’s Saturday game with Highland. Rob Hamilton | Morrow County Sentinel

By Rob Hamilton

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Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS