GRANGER TWP. — Center Anna Rose Wiencek and power forward Marlee Profitt have grown accustomed to carrying the load for Highland’s girls basketball team.
They got much-need help Thursday.
Sophomore Kathleen Kirchner scored in double figures for the first time in her young career and assisted on the go-ahead bucket, helping the Hornets fend off previously red-hot Cloverleaf 55-48 in Suburban League action.
Wiencek (18 points, 13 rebounds), Profitt (16, 8) and Kirchner (12, 4 assists) scored all but nine Highland points. It marked just the second time this season the Hornets (5-12, 2-8), who have won three of their last five following a nine-game losing streak, had three players reach double digits.
“It definitely boosted or confidence,” said Kirchner, whose previous career high was nine points in a 71-35 loss to St. Vincent-St. Mary on Dec. 28. “We needed a win to get back on the right path of what we want to get done. Hopefully, we will come out next game with as much intensity and get another win.
“We kind of lost it toward the last few minutes of the first half, and coach (Bernard Bolha) pulled us together. We recollected and came together with more intensity in the second half.”
A 5-foot-10 small forward who entered play averaging 3.4 points, Kirchner kept Highland afloat during a wild 35-point first quarter with three 3-pointers from the corner. Her pace slowed — she missed seven of her final eight attempts — but she came up with the biggest play of the game.
Cloverleaf (8-9, 3-7) tied the score at 46 on a 3-pointer by Emily Civittolo (11 points, 7 rebounds) with 2:30 remaining. On the next possession, Kirchner received a pass in the corner and quickly fired the ball to a cutting Profitt, who completed a three-point play.
That was all she wrote for the Colts, who got within 51-48 on Civittolo free throws but missed four shots on their next possession. Profitt, Wiencek and Erica Peterlin then closed the scoring at the foul line.
“Our coach told us to step it up, play better defense, go stronger to the basket and rebound,” Profitt said.
Though Highland is not noted for defense (Medina County-worst 51.6 average), a 3-2 zone helped the Hornets overcome a 30-26 halftime deficit. With the 6-1 Profitt guarding the top of the 3-point arc, Highland harassed Cloverleaf guards into unforced errors.
The Colts committed 16 of their 26 turnovers in the second half, when they shot just 7-for-30 (.233). The pressure also negated Cloverleaf from getting to the free throw line, as the county’s second-best team from the stripe made just 7-for-13.
“We needed to be up in their face to contest all their shots so they couldn’t get their shots off because we know they’re a good shooting team,” Kirchner said. “That was crucial in a close game like it was.”
Cloverleaf freshman Ava Illig scored 12 points, aggressive power forward Lauren Gokey added five points, nine rebounds and four steals and point guard Jessie Lindemeyer had nine points, six boards, eight steals and four assists, but the Colts’ passiveness against the zone frustrated coach John Carmigiano.
That held doubly true considering the strong-side block was wide open consistently.
“They had a good game plan getting back in order to get into their zone,” he said. “You either need to shoot your way out or not let them get into it by transitioning well and making things happen that way. We pretty much do either of them effectively, so therefore we continued to face the zone over and over again.”
The starting backcourts combined for 19 points, 10 assists, 17 steals and 29 turnovers.
• Taegan Scott, the younger brother of Highland basketball player Brogan Scott, hit a half-court shot for a pizza at halftime.
• Alaina Monroe ripped the cords for 22 points as the Hornets’ junior varsity won 55-48. Jillian Miglich and Taylor Barnum each had 10 points for Cloverleaf.
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.