It was a total team effort when Highland opened the Division II sectional girls’ basketball tournament with a 45-25 win over visiting Centennial. Eight girls scored for the Scots, with all between four and seven points, in the game.
“That’s typically been our whole season,” said head coach Whitney Levering Smith. “We don’t have one dominant player averaging 16 points a game. We’re concentrating on playing our game. It’s hard to tell who will show up on any given night.”
Five different girls staked Highland to a 10-point lead after the opening period of the Tuesday night contest. Brooklyn Geiger, Peyton Carpenter and Raven Tilford all hit baskets to give the team a 6-0 lead in the first three minutes. After a pair of free throws by Centennial, Savannah Fitzpatrick scored from three-point range.
The Stars were within a 9-4 margin with three to go in the period, but Highland got a three-pointer by Madison Cecil and two more points from Fitzpatrick to lead by 10 going into the second.
“I feel we were very flexible with scorers tonight,” said Brooklyn Baird, who was one of the team’s seven-point performers, along with Cecil. “I’m glad we were all on because if it was only one or two, that would have hurt our morale.”
Highland led by as many as 13 in the second quarter, as five girls connected from the field for two points, with one more adding a free throw.
Leading 25-14 at the half, the Scots effectively put the game away in the third quarter, as they held their opponents to a mere three points. After the Stars opened the period with a basket, Highland got a free throw from Tilford, a basket from Geiger and three free throws by Brylinn Tuggle to open up a 31-16 lead.
After a free throw by Centennial, Highland finished the quarter strongly, getting five straight points to go up by 19 points heading into the final eight minutes.
Levering Smith, who specifically cited Geiger for playing strong defense on Centennial’s top player, noted that her team’s defense dictated how the game went.
“We wanted to make sure we had full-court pressure the entire game,” she said. “I think that deterred them from scoring offensively as good as they normally do.”
The Stars opened the fourth quarter with five straight points to get within a 36-22 score, but Highland prevented them from getting any closer, as Cecil hit a basket and Baird added five straight points to allow the Scots to take a 21-point lead on their way to winning by 20.
Highland will play at second-seeded Granville on Friday, with the contest tipping off at 7 p.m.
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS