Race for conference title coming down to final week.
Highlands wasted no time in putting to rest Nantahala’s thoughts of an upset on the hardwood Monday night.
After giving up a basket in the opening minute, the Highlanders ripped off a 13-2 run and never looked back in a 72-39 victory over the Hawks in Little Smoky Mountain 1-A Conference play.
Lane Tingen was the catalyst for the Highlands offense early on with eight first quarter points. Tingen was able to get to the rim on multiple drives as the visitors struggled to close down lanes in their zone defense.
“One of the things we have been working with Lane on is letting the game come to him, not forcing things offensively,” Highlands head coach Brett Lamb said. “He did that tonight and it resulted in a new career high in points for him.”
A pair of buckets by Collin Stultzfus and a three-point basket from Brent Sleight pushed Highlands’ advantage to 20 points early in the second quarter. By halftime the home team had built a 41-13 advantage.
Nantahala battled back in the third quarter but back-to-back scores by Gig Chalker helped Highlands maintain its lead. Tingen opened the fourth period with a driving bucket, which served as an exclamation mark on the victory.
“We were able to work on some very specific things defensively that we are going to need to improve going forward,” Lamb said. “Nantahala has a couple of guys who can really shoot it from outside and it tested our defense, which was good.”
Tingen led Highlands with 20 points and six rebounds. Chalker and Nathan Keener each added nine points in the win. James Earp finished with five points and a team-high nine rebounds.
Dillon McLean paced Nantahala with 15 points. Zac Taylor added 14 points and five rebounds.
Highlands (4-2 overall) traveled to Hiwassee Dam on Tuesday night.
“We are in position where we need to win (at Hiwassee Dam) and win at Blue Ridge on Friday to put ourselves in the playoffs,” Lamb said. “We have an opportunity to do that and we have some momentum right now as a team.”
Highlands 67, Nantahala 13
In a game that was never close, Highlands cruised past Nantahala 67-13 on Monday night.
Hayley Borino poured in eight of her game-high 22 points in the first quarter as Highlands built a 31-3 advantage. By halftime the lead had ballooned to 47-6 in the Highlanders favor.
The second half of the contest was played with a running clock due to the score differential. A total of 11 different Highlanders scored in the contest as Lamb found minutes for every player who was in uniform.
“It was good to be able to get some playing time for so many of our younger girls that don’t usually get into close games,” Lamb said. “We started out in our press and that worked well and created some easy transition buckets. Once you see the ball go in the basket a few times everyone’s confidence seems to grow.”
Following Borino’s 22 points, were Julia May Schmitt and Riley Conner with eight points. Bella Wilson added six points in the win.
Nantahala was led by six points from Briana Passmore and four markers from Daphne McCoy.
Highlands (5-1 overall) visited Hiwassee Dam on Tuesday night.