Highland was able to stay close to host Bishop Watterson in Saturday night’s Division II sectional basketball game, but second quarter struggles proved costly to the Scots in a 61-32 loss that ended the team’s season with a 9-14 record.
“I thought they were a very physical team,” said Scot coach Christian Toombs of the Eagles. “We tried to match that physicality and we did a little bit, but they just wore us down.”
Part of the problem for the Scots was attempting to contain Watterson post Cole Rhett, who gave his team a substantial size advantage in the paint.
“He had nine in the first quarter,” said Toombs. “We were trying to double down on him, but he’s so good at passing to his shooters and using his body.”
Despite Rhett’s nine early points, the Scots were able to keep things close. Four points by Garrett Fitzpatrick and two from Dane Nauman had things tied at six at the 3:38 mark. Watterson would respond with eight in a row, but a late three-pointer by Jordan Bellamy kept Highland within a 14-9 margin after one quarter of play.
A Kadin Murta bucket in the second quarter helped the Scots stay within eight of their opponents at 19-11, but the team would suffer a scoring drought that lasted the rest of the period. During that span — nearly six minutes — Watterson went on an 18-point run that saw them open up a 37-11 lead on Highland.
The Scots would recover during halftime and put together their best quarter of the night in the third. Three-pointers by Rider Minnick, Bellamy and Brock Church got the team within 20 points at 40-20 and they would go into the fourth trailing by a 47-26 count.
However, they would not be able to get any closer, as their opponents opened the fourth quarter with a 10-2 run and finished on top by 29.
While disappointed with how his team’s season ended, Toombs felt that Highland accomplished a lot behind seniors Bellamy, Fitzpatrick, Minnick and Murta.
“That’s one thing we were talking about,” he said. “When we took over last year, we wanted to change the culture and mindset and that wouldn’t have happened if these four seniors hadn’t bought in. We had a very positive year. We didn’t have issues with practices or games. That’s a testament to those four seniors.”
Now, the coach is hoping his younger players can continue that work and keep the program moving in the right direction.
“That’s always our goal — to be at the top of the conference,” said Toombs. “They have things to work on like the weight room or ball handling. Like the seniors, they’re putting in a lot of time to get us back where we’re supposed to be.”
Bellamy led the team with eight points in the game.