The Highland boys’ basketball honored its alumni in Friday night’s home and season opener in a 59-50 win over Fredericktown.
In the game, which was played in the former high school gym — currently used by the middle school, the Scots wore replica uniforms of the Sparta Warriors in honor of one of the three schools that were consolidated into Highland along with Marengo and Chesterville.
Head coach Christian Toombs said that one of the things he wanted to do upon getting the job prior to the 2020-21 season was to put more of a focus on the district’s former players and their accomplishments. To do so, he not only worked to implement using the team’s home opener as a means to honor the team’s heritage, but also started up other activities, including having former coaches Mike Hoyng and Jerry Perkins serve as honorary captains for Friday’s game, as well as a summer league.
“We started an alumni summer league,” he said, adding that the teams in that league were a mixture of current and former Scot players. “They would play twice a night. We had standings and a tournament at the end. It was a great way to get those guys (the alumni) back. We did a great job this summer and there were quite a few in the stands.”
It was obvious the Scot players were fired up to represent their alumni in the early going. After two Jordan Bellamy three-pointers helped them take an 8-6 lead over the Freddies in the opening five minutes of the game, the team went on a lengthy run.
Bellamy hit a pair of shots and Gavin DeBord, Kort Sears and Garrett FItzpatrick all scored from the charity stripe as the opening period ended with Highland in front 16-6.
Three points by Bellamy and two each from DeBord and Fitzpatrick extended the lead to a 23-6 margin early in the second period. While the Freddies rebounded with eight straight points to cut their deficit to single digits, Highland got a basket from Gavin Hankins and pair of free throws by Bellamy to go up 27-14. At the half, the advantage was still 11 points at 28-17.
“In that first half, we were so energized and pumped for everything going around the game,” said Toombs. “But that killed us in the second half. I think we were a little tired.”
The Scots were able to maintain a sizable lead for much of the third quarter thanks to seven points from Rider Minnick. However, Fredericktown would finish the period with an 8-0 run to turn a 40-25 deficit into a 40-33 game.
Minnick hit one free throw to open the fourth quarter, but the Freddies countered with a Brady Lester bucket to make the score 41-35 — the closest the game had been since it was 12-6 late in the first.
The Scots would not let it get any closer, though. Fitzpatrick hit back-to-back shots and Bellamy added his fourth three-pointer of the game to make it 48-35 with 4:39 remaining.
“One of the things we tried to change was the culture,” said Toombs. “I knew what needed to change. One thing we targeted was mental toughness. I don’t know if we would have pulled this one out last year.”
Fredericktown would get no closer than a nine-point margin the rest of the way, which is how the game ended. Toombs noted that his team did a better job of attacking the net down the stretch.
“I thought we did a great job in the second half when the outside shooting stopped going down,” he said. “We’ve got some guys who can play in the post. We’ve got to score in there. We have to be looking.”
Bellamy led all scorers in the game, putting up 26 points for the Scots. Minnick added 11 — all in the second half — and Fitzpatrick scored 10 on the night.