Experience lifts Highland over young Winfield-Mt. Union squad
WINFIELD — Experience won out in a tight boys’ basketball game in Winfield on Monday night, as Highland defeated a young Winfield-Mt. Union squad 54-50.
The veteran Huskies stepped it up in the final four minutes of the Southeast Iowa Super Conference North Division game to claim a win in the nail-biter.
“We didn’t play well in the entire game, but we got enough stops in the last four minutes to get the job done,” Highland head coach Marcus Hall said.
It was the Wolves who led at the end of each of the first three quarters.
They were up 16-13 at the end of the first after freshman Sam Jennings hit a 3-pointer to break the 13-13 tie with only a few seconds remaining.
In the second quarter, Highland led much of the way, but freshman Garret Baker’s jumper just before halftime put Winfield-Mt. Union up 28-26.
Highland started the third quarter with a seven-point run, helped by senior Jake Hootman’s steal and layup and capped by senior Cameron Vinsand’s free throw, to take a five-point lead at 33-28.
But once again, Winfield-Mt. Union came back, and with Jennings’ second three-pointer of the game, the Wolves took a 37-36 lead. They would hold onto the advantage, taking a 40-38 lead into the final quarter.
Early in the fourth quarter, the teams continued to battle, with six lead changes before senior Talon McFarland hit a shot from deep that gave Highland a 52-50 lead with 2:14 left to play. It was a lead that the Huskies wouldn’t give up.
After Winfield-Mt. Union missed free throws, the Huskies took the ball down the court and were able to burn nearly 45 seconds off the clock before getting fouled.
Highland missed its free throws, and Winfield-Mt. Union used its last time out to figure out a plan for the last 19.9 seconds of the game.
But once again McFarland spoiled things for the Wolves, stealing the ball on the inbounds pass and forcing another Winfield-Mt. Union foul.
“Talon McFarland played well, hitting that three and getting the steal at the end,” Hall said.
McFarland sank one free throw to stretch the Huskies’ lead to three points. Winfield-Mt. Union got one last chance with 11 seconds left to play, but another turnover led to another foul, and Highland put the game out of reach when Vinsand made his free throw for what would be the final score.
The contest showed, according to Winfield-Mt. Union head coach Cody Wolfe, the struggles of having a young team.
“Mentally and experience-wise, we’re just not at that level yet,” he said, citing an example of where inexperience came into play. “We let 45 seconds slip off the clock there [at the end of the game].”
While seven of the 12 Highland players — including four starters, one of whom is McFarland — are seniors, the Wolves have only one senior on the roster, Lucas Rappenecker, and often have freshmen on the floor.
“At any given time, we could have four freshmen on the court,” Wolfe said.
Against Highland, some of those freshmen played key roles — Baker and Jennings each finished with eight points. Junior Jake Edwards led all scorers with 19 points on the night.
Overall, Wolfe was happy with how his team played against the Huskies. His team fell to 1-4 overall and in conference play.
“We played hard in a game against an obviously good, experienced team,” Wolfe said.
McFarland scored a team-high 18 points for the Huskies, and junior Josh Brase added 11. Vinsand chipped in eight points.
Highland (5-1, 4-1 SEISC North) will host Wapello tonight, and McFarland would like to see the same energy and skill in that game that the Huskies displayed in the final minutes of Monday night’s game.
“The key to the win [against Winfield-Mt. Union] was picking up our intensity,” McFarland said. “Tomorrow, we have to be playing up to our level — we can’t play at the other team’s level.”