Lady Pats hit season low in loss to Highlands

Published 4:06 pm Thursday, December 27, 2018

LEXINGTON — The Lincoln County girls basketball team was ranked sixth in the state in preseason polls and has remained among the top ranked teams in the state. And heading into the Traditional Bank Classic hosted by Lexington Catholic, the Lady Patriots were considered among the favorites.

However, the Lincoln girls did not look like a tourney favorite in their opening-round game with HIghlands Friday, as a lackluster effort resulted in the team’s low-point effort of the season and a 59-48 loss to the Bluebirds.

Lincoln, which has now dropped two games in a row, was cold from the opening tip, missing its first three shot attempts, but rebounded to open up a 6-0 lead. Highlands answered with a 12-3 scoring surge, though, and the Lady Patriots struggled to keep pace the rest of the way.

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“Go ahead and write it. It wasn’t pretty from start to finish,” Lincoln coach Cassandra McWhorter said. “I thought we showed a little effort after I got on them there on the sideline a little bit. The next two possessions we scored. We were just slow to everything tonight. We weren’t moving while the ball was in the air. We didn’t look like we wanted to be here, honestly. It looked like we put a uniform on and just showed up and thought we were going to win a ballgame and not have to do anything.”

Lincoln is not unfamiliar with slow starts but the Lady Patriots have always changed gears and started clicking. That was not the case Friday.

“It didn’t change. We have had slow starts but not like this,” McWhorter said. “A couple minutes and we usually turn on. I’ve not seen this before.”

After games with four to five double-digit scorers, Lincoln saw just two players hit double figures Friday. Kaitlynn Wilks had a game-high 15 points and Maddy Boyle finished with 10 points. Emma King, who is close to becoming Lincoln’s all-time leading scorer, was held to nine points. Trinity Shearer and Zaria Napier, who have both been in double digits in recent games, got just eight points and six points, respectively.

King hit inside to start Lincoln’s 6-0 run. Wilks followed with a bucket in the paint off a Boyle assist then added two free throws.

Highlands’ Paige Macke, who led the Bluebirds with 13 points, stepped behind the arc for the game’s first 3-pointer with 6 minutes, 6 seconds still to play in the first to kickstart the Bluebirds’ opening run. Macke also hit inside in the run, Chloe Jansen, who finished with 12 points, added a layup and a free throw, Rory O’Hara scored in the paint, then Zoie Barth, who added 10 points, went baseline to score and put Highlands up 12-9.

The only hiccup in the HIghlands’ run was a 3-pointer by King. Shearer would drain her own 3 to tie the game at 12-all only to have Hanna Buecker score on a putback to edge the Bluebirds ahead 14-12 at the end of one.

Lincoln (4-2) would reclaim the lead early in the second quarter, 16-14, off baskets by Napier and Wilks. Jansen would step to the wing for a 3 to push the Bluebirds back on top, 17-16. They held to a 21-18 trey after a Barth triple.

The game was deadlocked at 21-21 at the break, with Boyle closing the first-half with a 3-pointer.

Highlands’ Ashley Hayes opened the second half with a 3-pointer and Jansen followed with a bucket in the paint to make it 26-21, Bluebirds, and Lincoln never regained the lead.

The Lady Patriots were within two points, 36-34, late in the third after buckets by Napier and Wilks before the Bluebirds broke on a 7-0 closing run. Kenzie Nehus ignited the run with a 3-pointer and Jansen followed with a bucket to put HIghlands up 41-34 going into the fourth quarter and Macke was all alone under the bucket to start the final frame to extend the lead to nine points, 43-34.

The Bluebirds led by at least seven points the rest of the way, posting their biggest lead at the buzzer.

“You’ve got to give credit. Highlands had a great game plan,” said McWhorter. “I knew she (Highlands coach Jaime Richey) was going to try to make it ugly. But them trying to stall the ball even when they’re down one or two but pulling it out and stalling the ball … We just didn’t have a since of urgency about us it seemed like until late and we can’t wait until late in the game to try and pull out a ballgame against a good team.”

HIghlands, which went into an offensive stall as early as the first half, shot 37.5 percent from the field, going 18-for-48 overall, including seven 3-pointers. Lincoln finished at 33.9 percent on 18-for-53 shooting, with five 3’s. The biggest difference in scoring came at the foul line as Lincoln was just 7-for-8 at the line while Highlands was 16-for-25, including a 12-for-17 stint in the fourth quarter.

“We have keys to a win before every game and that was the first time that I’ve been coaching that I think not one key to winning was done,” McWhorter said. “There was not one of the five that showed up as far as what we try to execute, as far as what we talk about is our key to winning. Turnovers we have against a team that isn’t even pressing us. You don’t get to the free throw line more than the other team. There’s no defensive energy. We’re not pushing the ball like we normally do. We’re not boxing out. It’s just doing the little things to win a ballgame. We didn’t do them.”

Lincoln had 14 turnovers in the game compared to six for Highlands.

Note: The Lady Patriots closed out the tournament on a winning note, following the opening loss with a 64-54 win over South Warren and a 73-43 rout of Boone County.

Traditional Bank Classic
At LexCath

Lincoln 12 9 13 -14 – 48
H-lands 14 7 20 18 – 59

LINCOLN (4-2) – Emma King 9, Kaitlynn Wilks 15, Maddy Boyle 10, Trinity Shearer 8, Zaria Napier 6.

HIGHLANDS (7-1) – Paige Macke 13, Ashley Hayes 6, Kenzie Nehus 4, Zoie Barth 12, Hanna Buecker 6, Chloe Jansen 12, Rory O’Hara 6.