Points in the paint

Raegan Barrett of Great Crossing launches a shot over the Highlands defense during Thursday's game. The visiting Bluebirds rallied from an early 8-0 deficit and won going away, 48-34.

Yes, the Great Crossing girls’ basketball schedule has been challenging the past two weeks.

It was tough at the start of the season and in the middle, too, so coach Glenn Wilson isn’t buying that as an explanation for the Warhawks’ recent dip in performance.

Highlands rolled in Thursday from Fort Thomas, played its disciplined, half-court style to near perfection after a brief hiccup at the start, and made GC look like a shadow of its season-long self in a 48-34 win.

“We’ve played better teams. Right now our mind’s not focused enough to take care of business like we need to,” Wilson said. “We’re not competing the way we can compete. We’re better than this. We’ve seen us shoot the ball well and do a lot of good things, but right now we’re not doing any of that stuff.”

It was by far the lowest single-game point total for Great Crossing (10-5) in its brief history. The current three-game winless stretch is the Warhawks’ longest since being swept by Simon Kenton, Scott County and Lincoln County at the 2020 Toyota Classic.

After GC jumped out to an 8-0 lead on two 3-pointers from Rachel Smith and a hook shot by Raegan Barrett, almost anything that could go wrong, did.

The Warhawks went more than nine minutes without a point while the Bluebirds (15-5) bagged the next 10, putting themselves back in a position where they could agonizingly control the pedestrian tempo.

“We started throwing the ball around,” Wilson said. “We had 21 turnovers that led to 16 points. That’s not our character."

Highlands consistently bedazzled GC with backdoor cuts for easy layups or reversals for open 3-pointers at the end of those patient possessions.

Emma Mallery knocked down a pair of 3-pointers in the third quarter, one beating the buzzer, to stretch what was a 17-16 halftime edge to 32-24.

‘They hit big threes that put it out of reach,” Wilson said. “When you’re not scoring and they’re scoring, it’s tough. We played their tempo.”

Kelsey Listerman and Rory O’Hara, Highlands’ two leading scorers on the season but held to a collective 6-for-25 from the field, combined for eight free throws in the fourth period to slam the door.

Listerman led Highlands with 14 points. Mallery (11), Emma Riccobene (10) and O’Hara (nine) bolstered the Bluebirds’ attack. Six of Riccobene’s points were the result of fourth-quarter rim runs.

Highlands shut out Great Crossing’s two most explosive scorers, Braylee McMath and Timothi Williams, in the first half. Williams’ nine after intermission led GC on the night. McMath scored all five of her points in the final two minutes of the game.

The irony of Highlands' approach is that the Bluebirds are coached by Jaime Walz Richey, whose 4,948 high school points in the 1990s smashed the state record.

“They’re a very patient team, smart. They do a lot of things right. We told them we had to get the ball and get up and down the court and go,” Wilson said. “We started out OK. We were doing fine, and then we had like four straight turnovers. We never recovered from that.”

Smith finished with eight points after the early flurry. Ava Schureman supplemented her six points with a game-high 10 rebounds.

GC lost by a point in overtime at Christian Academy-Louisville after rallying from a 17-point deficit last Saturday. Anderson County, considered one of the top contenders to win the state title, put a rare running clock on the Warhawks in a Monday measuring stick contest.

“I’d rather see us shoot a bad shot than turn the ball over. We made a lot of unforced turnovers tonight that just killed us. We didn’t even have that many against the No. 1 team in the state,” Wilson said. “We’ve got to get our edge back, get that little chip on our shoulder back. Right now we’re just out there. I don’t know what’s wrong with us.”

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