MEDINA — If the Medina Division I Sectional was any indicator, the Highland girls basketball team is born to be wild.
Using their five-in, five-out substitutions and make-the-game-crazy philosophy to perfection Thursday, the fourth-seeded Hornets upended No. 3 Kenmore 83-70 in another stat-stuffing, not-so-instant classic.
In one-upping its win total from the previous season, Highland (16-8) advanced to play second-seeded Brunswick in next week’s district semifinals despite Cardinals senior Porshae Hearn, the Akron City Series Player of the Year and Cleveland State recruit, finishing with 40 points, 14 rebounds and three assists.
The ironic twist was the Hornets’ non-stop pressure wore down an opponent that had games of 79, 80, 81, 83, 86, and 95 points to its credit — albeit in the weak City Series.
“We knew that it was going to be a tough game right from the beginning with the way the papers talked about them,” senior AnnMarie Kirchner said. “We knew their players pretty well, but knowing winning this would give us a better record than last year was another step in the right direction. We wanted to win this bad.”
Eight of the Hornets’ 14 players grabbed four or more rebounds. Highland finished with a 60-54 edge in the department 72 hours after snaring 80 against Ellet, but 25 came on the offensive glass against much-smaller Kenmore (16-7), which didn’t have a player taller than 5-foot-9.
The game featured a 50-point second quarter, 99 missed field goals (in an incredible 167 attempts) and 55 turnovers after it was delayed 40 minutes because the Kenmore athletic department forgot to schedule a bus to Medina.
If the awkward wait affected the Hornets, they certainly didn’t show it while roaring to a 64-37 lead in the third quarter.
“The 40 minutes took forever. I was getting drained of energy because I was standing and looking over at the door,” forward Anna Rose Wiencek said. “I felt like time wasn’t moving and we were going to be tired. We didn’t want to shoot too much, we didn’t want to run too much and we didn’t want to stretch too much, so it was nerve-wracking.”
John Carroll recruit Kirchner led Highland with 18 points, seven rebounds and four assists while playing outstanding defense on Hearn in the decisive third quarter. Wiencek added 16 points, 10 rebounds and five steals, Mallory Adams had 11 points, nine boards and three blocks and Jessica Peterlin tallied six assists off the Hornets’ laughably effective inbounds plays.
Hearn scored 40 points on 32 shot attempts, but had just nine points on 4-of-13 shooting in the first and third quarters that Highland combined to win 38-18. Casey McCormick added 13 points and 18 rebounds, but the rest of the team was 7-of-32 from the floor.
The poor shooting was largely attributable to Highland’s defense, which was effective at protecting the basket and had enough hustle to recover when Hearn attempted to launch 60-foot football-style passes to cherry-picking teammates.
“If you let up on anything against a team like that, they can definitely come back in a second,” Kirchner said.
Kenmore missed 12 of its first 13 shots as Highland took a 12-2 lead. The Cardinals clawed back behind 17 second-quarter points from Hearn, but the Hornets grabbed key momentum when Madison Less, a junior varsity player promoted for the postseason as a member of the Hornets’ third shift, rattled in a 3-pointer in the waning seconds of the first half.
The shot fueled another balanced 12-2 splurge — Wiencek, Kirchner, Adams, Peterlin and Marlee Profitt scored buckets — that made it 53-33 just minutes into the third quarter.
Highland pushed the spread to 27 points before letting off the gas a little bit. This allowed Hearn to score 14 points in garbage time, including muscling up a double-teamed layup in the closing seconds.
At that point, the final score meant little to the Hornets, who were already looking ahead to how they can exhaust the sub-only-when-neccesary Blue Devils.
“This was really important because we have to look forward to our next game against Brunswick where if we get a lead like that, we have to be able to maintain the lead,” Wiencek said. “We have to increase the lead because Brunswick’s a very good team.”
Highland’s bench outscored Kenmore’s 25-7 as freshmen Profitt, Kathleen Kirchner and Sam Catron each scored six or more points.
The Hornets were in the bonus just 5:12 into the game and made 13-of-20 free throws in the first half.
Highland boys basketball player Austin Adams, who was on hand to watch his younger sister, Mallory, tweeted during the game, “This is the wildest girls game ever. People are missing out.”
One game after going 29-of-84 against Ellet, the Hornets went 30-of-84 against Kenmore.
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.