Facing a powerful Whitehall-Yearling team led by Central District Division II player of the year Alexia Mobley, the Highland girls saw their season come to an end in the district semifinals Tuesday night at Westerville North High School by a 55-32 margin.
Mobley, a 6’2” sophomore post, made an immediate impact on the game, scoring seven points in just over three minutes to stake her team to an early 9-0 lead.
The Scots would battle back to within an 11-6 margin on baskets by Gena West and Madison Cecil, as well as a pair of Cecil free throws. Unfortunately for the locals, Whitehall finished the quarter on a 9-2 run to lead 20-8 after eight minutes.
Head coach Whitney Levering Smith felt her team struggled to guard the Ram guards while on defense. Offensively, it was simply an issue of making shots.
“We were really struggling offensively,” she said. “We were 3-of-20 in the first half with two-point field goals. If you can’t score that way, it’s tough to win games.”
While a three-pointer by Brooklyn Baird and a two-point shot by West kept the team within a 23-13 margin nearly halfway through the second quarter, they would not hit from the field for over four minutes. The team did get two free throws each from Baird and West, but were outscored 10-4 going into the half and found themselves in a 33-17 hole.
Cecil would score eight points for Highland in the third quarter, but the team only managed 10 in total. While they were able to creep within 13 points of the Rams at 37-24, Whitehall was able to finish the period on a 12-3 run to lead by 22 going into the final period.
Highland got a pair of free throws by Baird and a late three-pointer by Kennedy Altizer over those final eight minutes, but wouldn’t be able to dent the Ram lead in seeing their season conclude with a 15-10 record.
The team did have one bright spot in the contest, though, as senior guard Cecil was able to finish her career as Highland’s all-time top scorer. She finished with a team-high 12 points in the game to end up with 1053 as a member of the Scots, topping Kristen Anderson’s total of 1047.
“At least we have something to hold our heads high,” said Levering Smith. “We knew if we got three games deep, tonight she’d have a chance to get it. Basketball is her love and she shows it out there.”
Cecil, who averaged nearly 18 points per game this year, still hadn’t processed placing her name in Highland’s record book.
“It feels unreal,” she said. “It was such an unattainable goal going into this year. I’m so blessed by having a team like this and family like this. I’ll remember it forever.”
Cecil is one of six seniors that the team will have to replace next year. Both Baird and West also contributed eight points in the game, while Brooklyn Geiger, Mattie Ruehrmund and Darcie Walters all contributed to the team’s 15-10 record this season.
“With the start of their freshman year, we won eight games, then 10, then 13 and then 15,” said Levering Smith. “And every year in the tournament, we had a new accomplishment. They accepted the challenges and what I asked of them.”
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS