The Highland girls rallied from a slow start to defeat Mount Gilead in a Thursday night home game by a 56-37 margin.
The Indians started quickly, getting two baskets from Madison Fitzpatrick and a three-pointer from Holly Gompf to lead 7-0 midway through the opening period, but Highland battled back over the next four minutes. Raven Tilford got the Scots on the board with a basket and free throw. After another Fitzpatrick basket, Highland got a basket from Erica Sardinha and two from Madison Cecil to tie the game at nine.
“That first quarter had a slow start, but the girls held their composure,” said Scot coach Whitney Levering-Smith. “From there on out, we held on and played our game. I’m very proud of them and couldn’t ask for a better response.”
The Indians finished the quarter with a one-point lead after Fitzpatrick connected once from the free throw line and then took an 11-9 lead on another free throw to open the second period. The two teams would trade baskets for most of the period, but Highland took the momentum into the half. Sardinha broke a 19-19 tie with a three-pointer and Cecil added a basket from further inside to put the home team up by five entering the intermission.
Mount Gilead coach Ryan Stover noted that his team had plenty of opportunities on the night, but simply struggled to convert.
“We had a lot of opportunities, but couldn’t finish,” he said. “The girls played hard, but Highland is a good team. We turned the ball over too much and missed opportunities.”
Cecil opened the third quarter with a three-pointer, but MG rebounded to get a basket from Fitzpatrick and three-pointer from Dakota Shipman to close within three at 27-24. Unfortunately for the Indians, Highland would then go on a 10-2 run to open up a double-digit advantage, with Brooklyn Baird tallying four of that total.
“We were behind and felt pressured,” said Stover. “We tried to force too much instead of playing our game. Injuries have plagued us the last couple weeks. Our point guard is out with a hamstring and I’m not sure when she’ll be back. Madison Fitzpatrick stepped up in a big way. Her and Dakota Shipman lead the team as captains.”
The Scots got four points from Sardinha down the stretch in the quarter to increase their lead to a 44-31 margin with eight minutes to play. Levering-Smith stated that Sardinha and Cecil did a great job of leading the team to the win.
“Erica Sardinha and Madison Cecil did great,” she said. “They were not only our high scorers, but had assists. When we share the ball and everyone looks to attack, it’s hard to beat us and it’s fun to watch and coach.”
The teams traded scores to open the fourth quarter, with Baird hitting from the field for Highland and MG responding with two free throws by Shipman. However, the Indians would then go nearly four minutes without lighting up the scoreboard. Highland would put the game away during that time, getting eight points — four by Cecil — to take a 54-33 lead with just over three minutes left in the contest.
With the win, Highland moves to 7-8 overall and 6-3 in conference play, while the Indians drop to 6-8, 3-6. Stover noted that his young team simply needs to put four quarters together.
“We had a lot of energy and confidence to come into this facility and have a big start,” he said. “We’re right there. We’re competing with a lot of good teams, but just have to finish.”
Fitzpatrick tallied 16 to pace Mount Gilead. Highland got 17 from Cecil, 15 from Sardinha and eight from Baird. Levering-Smith is hoping her team can continue to build momentum heading towards the postseason.
“It hurts a little bit that we moved up to Division II while playing mostly Division III teams, but having momentum and winning games is a big confidence boost,” she said.
Kenzie Fuller works her way inside for two points in Thursday night’s basketball game.
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS