Highland’s second-half surge leads to knocking off Palmyra, building postseason momentum

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PALMYRA, Mo. — The Highland girls basketball team’s play in the second half Saturday afternoon bordered on the inexplicable.

The Cougars, who at one point in the first quarter appeared to be on life support, completely overwhelmed Palmyra over the closing two periods to take a 47-38 Clarence Cannon Conference victory in the regular-season finale.

Consider that Highland

• Outscored Palmyra 10-0 over the final 4 1/2 minutes of the game;

• Outpointed Palmyra 33-10 in the second half;

• And opened the game on the short end of an 11-0 score and trailed 28-14 at intermission.

“We just calmed down,” Highland coach Ashton Jaco said of her team’s performance in the second half. “This was an intense game.”

Palmyra coach Kelsey Stuart was rather puzzled.

“This is one that got away,” Stuart said. “Ten points in a half. That’s ridiculous. We executed, (but) we just couldn’t put the ball in the basket. Props to Highland.”

The victory allowed Highland to share second place in the conference with Palmyra and South Shelby. Highland (18-5, 5-2 CCC), South Shelby (20-6, 5-2 CCC) and Palmyra (18-6, 5-2 CCC) all finished two games behind Centralia (21-4, 7-0 CCC). A week ago, Palmyra was tied for the league lead but dropped its final two conference games to Centralia and Highland.

Chevie Sharpe, Highland’s hard-working sophomore guard, agreed with Jaco. She felt the Cougars came out in the second half looking for the proverbial jugular.

“It was tough, but we just put our heads down and kept charging,” Sharpe said. “We didn’t panic or freak out.”

Sharpe is part of a Highland lineup that starts three sophomores and a freshman. The lone senior regular, Ali Reed, had all nine of her points in the first half to keep Highland within striking distance.

Addy Abell scored 13 points and Keera Rothweiler netted 10 for Highland as they combined for 18 points in the second half. Abby Lay hauled in a game-high 12 rebounds for the Cougars, 10 coming over the final two quarters.

Palmyra’s Clare Williams led all scorers with 16 points. All of her points came in the first half. Candra King (10) was Palmyra’s other double-figure scorer. Sydney Compton (9) and Taytum White (7) combined for 16 rebounds.

Both schools begin district play at Palmyra this week. Highland plays Clark County (5-17) at 7:30 p.m. Monday. Palmyra does not play until 6 p.m. Wednesday against the winner of Monday’s 6 p.m. game between Monroe City (13-13) and Macon (11-15). Macon downed Monroe City 62-56 in Saturday night’s regular-season finale.

“We’re looking to carry the momentum from (Saturday’s win) into the district,” Jaco said. “It’s time for the postseason, and I think we’re starting to figure things out.”

Stuart wants to put the loss to Highland in the rear-view mirror.

“We’re 0-0 going into the district,” she said. “We’re anxious to get back in the gym.”

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