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By David Sharp
Highland and Knox County put on an entertaining, competitive basketball game in the first half of their December 17, 2021 varsity boys’ contest at Knox County. Alex Meyer jump started the Cougar offense with a home run ball at the 2:05 mark of the third quarter.
The Cougars (7-3) took the lead with a 10-2 third quarter run and went on to a 56-43 win. Alex Meyer scored 13 of his 16 points in the second half. Highland took advantage of foul trouble and Knox County being without three of their top guards due to injury.
Highland was also without senior guard Brandon Holder due to injury. The Cougars saw three men score in double figures, led by Drew Mallett with a game high 18 points. Jacob Becker led the Eagles with ten points.
Highland sprang to an 8-2 lead when Cameron Bringer scored with four minutes to play in the first quarter. Knox County battled back with a 9-4 run. Collin Hayes buried a Knox County three with a second on the clock.
Highland led 12-11 at the close of the opening period. Kellen Parrish tied the contest at 21 with 1:05 to play in the first half. Highland took a 24-23 edge to the dressing room.
The teams continued their back and forth struggle early in the third quarter. Drew Mallett scored over two Eagle defenders for a 32- 30 lead at the 3:23 point of the period.
Alex Meyer gave Highland the Cougars some breathing room with two minutes showing on the third quarter clock. Robert Goehl sank two free throws with 1:24 to play in the period. Alex Meyer hit another three ball with 38 seconds to play in the third quarter.
The 10-2 Highland run put the Cougars up by ten points. Collin Hayes answered with a driving field goal. Highland led 43-34 after three periods of play. Highland led 48- 37 with five minutes to play in the game.
The score was the same just over a minute later in the hard fought contest. Highland displayed a solid offensive game. The Cougars rebounded well despite Knox County’s height advantage.
“When you have two 6’7” kids, it’s hard to get that ball to the rim,” Highland senior Cameron Bringer said. “We don’t have much height on our team. They are tall. Every single one of them.”
“We stayed in help defense,” Cameron Bringer said when asked how the Cougars were able to keep the taller Knox County front line in check. “We were able to keep (Jacob) Becker and (Nelson) Shinkle from driving the lane.”
“We didn’t play their game. We stayed in help (defense). We took it to the hole. They were playing that packed zone. They made it harder to get the ball to Drew (Mallett). It was hard to attack the basket,” Cameron Bringer said. That’s what we are good at.”
The Cougars defended well. Highland led 52-39 with 1:36 to play in the game. Kellen Parrish slipped behind the defense for a bucket and a 52-41 score. Alex Meyer sealed the deal with two free throws at the 14 second mark. Jacob Becker answered with a Knox County free throw.
“That group doesn’t have a lot of size,” Knox County coach Nathan Miller said. “But what they don’t have in height, they make up for in athleticism hustle and everything else.”
“We knew we were going to have to get some effort tonight. They were going to try to get the 50-50 balls and wreak havoc on us,” Nathan Miller said. “Especially in that second half, they did a pretty dang good job of that.”
“That team does a great job of taking charges. Of taking extra opportunities for themselves,” Nathan Miller said. “They had three guys in double digits tonight. Three great athletes. They make it tough.”
“(Jacob) Becker had two tonight. Other than that he was our only kid in double digits tonight. We had seven guys score tonight. But we have to have more production on the offensive end.”
“I felt like we did a good job defensively forcing tough shots,” Coach Miller said. “We had some lackadaisical rebounding efforts too. Those extra possessions hurt us down the stretch too.”
“We have got to find a way to finish off offensive possessions.”
Jacob Becker led the Eagles with ten points. Kellen Parrish scored nine points. Nelson Shinkle scored seven points before fouling out in the fourth quarter. Tanner Gillaspy scored six points. Austin Jansen and Braydon Miller added two points each.
Drew Mallett scored a game high 18 points. Alex Meyer and Cameron Bringer scored 16 points each. Robert Goehl scored four points. Seth Evans added two Cougar points.
Highland went 15- 25 from the free throw line. Knox County was 5-7 from the line. Knox County held a 17-15 advantage in made field goals.
“This is a tough place to play,” Highland coach Brock Butler said of the circa 1963 Knox County High School Gym. “It is a hard place to play basketball in. It is tough to get into a rhythm if you can’t get into one early.”
“We have tried to press on them. Get some easy baskets early, and we didn’t,” Brock Butler said. “Alex (Meyer) is kind of our sparkplug. Once he gets a couple, everybody’s flowing.”
“He opened up Drew (Mallett). He played a phenomenal game tonight. Usually, Drew’s not undersized in the paint. Tonight, he was,” Brock Butler said. “We got (Nelson) Shinkle in foul trouble. That was huge.”
“If he plays the whole game, that is a whole different ball game. We could go from being up one to being down ten at half easily. They had a good game plan,” Coach Butler said.
“They can shoot from the outside. This a tough environment to score the basketball in. Being in the Hot Box, you have to be tough. You have to be physical,” Butler said. “I thought we were really tough and physical with them in the paint.”
“Could there have been calls that could have got us in foul trouble, yeah, maybe. We just had to grind it out down low with how big those boys are down there. (Nelson) Shinkle is a really good big guy. We got him in foul trouble. He is 6’7”, 6’8”. He can play the post and knock down the three ball.”
“He is a special kind of player with his size and his ability.”