TALLMADGE — Brogan Scott and Tanner Houska knew it was a big game with a lot at stake. So from the opening tip, they showed why they are two of the top scorers in the Suburban League.
In a Friday night matchup between two of the three teams that were tied for first place in the SL race, Scott scored the game’s first six points in Highland’s 63-57 road win at Tallmadge.
“Brogan really came out with a ton of energy,” Highland coach Michael Murphy said of the junior center, who finished with 17 points. “It really set the tone for us tonight.”
Scott’s strong start rubbed off on Houska, who finished with a team-high 18 points. The junior point guard regained a bounce to his step that was seemingly absent in recent games, and the extra gear led to some easy layups after easily beating his defender off the dribble.
“I came in wanting to attack,” Houska said. “There were some mismatches that we knew we could exploit. We have a lot of doubters, but our team has a lot of confidence, so we wanted to take care of business.”
In an effort to curtail Houska’s penetration, the Blue Devils implemented a rarely used box-and-one defense. It slowed his pace a little, but Houska still netted 11 first-half points.
Highland’s business-like approach resulted in a season sweep of Tallmadge (9-6, 6-3) after a 53-45 home win on Dec. 13. It also kepts Highland (10-5, 7-2) in a first-place tie with Green, which defeated the Hornets last week.
Defensively, Scott and the Hornets struggled to contain Andrew Francesconi, who scored a game-high 25 points to keep the Blue Devils close, but held 16.6-point scorer Colten Stricker to a season-low two points.
Francesconi had 17 points in the first half, but his teammates didn’t provide much support and Highland led 33-28 at intermission.
Tallmadge tied the score at 38 on a putback by Francesconi with 3:02 left in the third quarter and against at 40 before consecutive layups by Kevin Greenhoe and Houska put the Hornets up four heading into the final period.
Greenhoe came off the bench to score a career-high 12 points, with 10 coming in the second half. His two layups gave Highland its biggest lead, 55-43, with 4:37 left to play.
“I came out with a lot of confidence,” Greenhoe said. “I wanted to supply the team with energy.”
Murphy was impressed by the junior’s performance.
“Greenhoe was the difference-maker in the second half,” Murphy said. “His energy helped us maintain our momentum.”
Tallmadge fought back with a final run. Nate Bickar (13 points) swished his third 3-pointer of the quarter at 1:34 and it was 61-53. A basket by Francesconi trimmed it to 61-57 with 29 seconds remaining.
An airball on a forced 3-point attempt by Bickar on the Blue Devils’ next possession was rebounded by Scott to end the threat and seal the win for the Hornets.
Asked if he expected his team to be in first place at this point of the season, Murphy responded with confidence.
“I did think that we would be here,” he said. “It will come down to the stretch, but right now our focus is only on our next game (tonight) against Revere.”
Contact Kenneth Coleman at email@example.com.
Highland 63, Tallmadge 57
HIGHLAND 17 16 11 19 — 63
TALLMADGE 14 14 12 17 — 57
Highland — Alex Wood 0-0-0, Alec Withers 4-2-10, Brogan Scott 3-11-17, Ben Hauser 1-0-2, Tanner Houska 6-5-18, Kevin Greenhoe 6-0-12, Coltin Kinsey 1-2-4, Tyler Frederick 0-0-0. TOTALS: 21-20-63.
Tallmadge — Nate Bickar 5-0-13, Colten Stricker 1-0-2, Andrew Francesconi 6-12-25, Joe Vassalotti 3-0-7, Jarrett Ross 1-0-2, Justen Cambria 4-0-8. TOTALS: 20-12-57.
3-point goals — Bickar 3, Francesconi, Vassalotti, Houska. Records — Highland (10-5, 7-2), Tallmadge (9-6, 6-3). Junior varsity —Tallmadge, 46-45.