With the conference season nearing the halfway point, the Rebels (3-8, 1-4) picked up an important first conference win against Gosnell, 63-36, at home on Jan. 3, but then lost their first game at the Kell Classic Tournament in Swifton versus Tuckerman, 72-67, on Jan. 6.
The Lady Rebels (6-7, 3-2) moved into the second round of the Kell Classic with a win over ICC last week, but couldn't get past conference foe Westside, losing 33-30 on Jan. 6.
Highland took a 5-3 lead against Gosnell and didn't give it back for the rest of the night.
Four Rebels scored in the first period, led by Sterling Stowers with six points, to get Highland a 17-10 early advantage.
The Pirates forced several turnovers in the second quarter, but the Rebs were able to extend their lead to 30-22 at halftime.
"We started out hot and just stayed hooked the whole game, I thought. Our defense was exceptional," said Rebel Head Coach Chad Arnhart. "We played a lot of 2-1-2 in the game and made them shoot from outside. They didn't hit a lot of their perimeter shots, which really helped us out."
The Pirates got a few quick points to start the third, but Garrett Johnson hit a trey and Harris Young stole the ball and drove for his first career dunk, to the pleasure of the home crowd, to regain the momentum. The Rebels outscored Gosnell 23-10 in the quarter to put the game away for a much-needed win.
"We lost several in a row. We needed a win. A win helps in every category," said Arnhart. "Makes practices easier and makes you feel better."
Young and Johnson led the team in scoring with 12 and 11 points, respectively.
In the first game at Westside, Highland was down by 18 before halftime.
At the Kell Classic, the Lady Rebs struggled to score early again, but the defense kept them in the game. Down 8-0 with about two minutes left in the first quarter, Alex Isaacs gave Highland its first points with a two made free throws. Whitney Davis hit a bucket and Lady Rebs finished the first period down just 9-4.
Although many easy buckets were missed in the second, Isaacs did score all seven of Highland second quarter points, but the Lady Warriors extended their advantage to 17-11.
"We missed a lot of easy shots. Missed some free throws. I thought we played real hard," said Lady Rebel Head Coach Harlan Davis. "We made some real hustle plays and some good plays out of some really tough situations, but we made some mistakes on what should have been some routine, easy plays."
Bobi Jo Cooper hit a 3 and Issacs and Davis each added two buckets to outscore Westside 11-10 in the third.
The Lady Reb defense held Westside scoreless for the last two-and-a-half minutes of the game, but could not overcome its lead. Highland did shoot 6 of 8 from the free throw line to get it close.
"Defense, I thought we played really well. Even when they scored on us a couple of times late, I thought we were guarding them pretty well. (Westside) hit a couple of tough shots," said Davis.
Against Tuckerman, it seemed like a tale of two halves, but Highland didn't play that poorly in the first half.
The Bulldogs just shot lights-out to grab a big lead.
It took over three minutes for Highland to get a bucket, which put them down 8-0, but two minutes later Brad Harris and Johnson tied the game at eight. Tuckerman made a couple of late baskets for a 12-8 first quarter lead.
In the second, Tuckerman missed two shots and one free throw. The Reb offense produced a respectable 15 points, but the Bulldogs put in 30.
"Hats off to Tuckerman. They got to the basket a little too much on us. Our defense didn't deny penetration enough," explained Arnhart. "They got all the way to the hole and shot a layup or they kicked it back out and they hit their 3s."
Harris scored 14 of his game-leading 32 points in the second, but the Bulldogs matched him almost shot for shot getting out of the period up, 56-41.
In a furious attempt to catch the Bulldogs, Highland scored 26 in the final quarter cutting the score to four points with 20 seconds left in the game. Tuckerman went only 2 of 6 from the charity stripe at the end of the game, but the Rebs couldn't take advantage. Johnson added 12 and Young 11 for the Rebels.