For both the Rebels and Lady Rebels, moving on towards a chance at the regional tournament meant getting past Gosnell at the 3-4A District Tournament held at Trumann.
Both the Pirates and Lady Pirates proved to be formidable, quick and tenacious.
The boys and girls games had similar qualities, as each were close throughout with several lead changes. But both Highland teams couldn't stop the Pirate runs at the end of the game. 6th-seeded Gosnell beat the 7th-seeded Rebels, 55-50, on Feb. 14, and the 5th-seeded Lady Pirates defeated the 4th-seeded Lady Rebels, 50-41, on Feb. 15.
Highland will not be sending a team to the regional tournament for the first time in a long time.
Sterling Stowers tied the boys' game at 38-all when he hit one of two free throws to end the third quarter and then hit two treys to start the fourth to give the Rebs a 44-40 advantage over the Pirates.
Highland struggled from the free throw line all day, going eight-of-16 through the first three quarters and it didn't improve in the fourth, which proved to be their downfall.
"We had our chances. We didn't execute in the last four minutes like we need to in order to win the game," said Rebel Head Coach Chad Arnhart. "We didn't step to the line and make our free throws and that hurt us."
With just over two minutes to play, Darrian McKinney hit a two and then a 3 to give Gosnell a 49-47 lead. The Pirates shot six-of-six in the quarter from the line, while Highland only managed two-of-seven.
The Pirates' quick play forced the Rebs into four first quarter turnovers, but they were down 12-11 after one.
"That quickness is just a constant pressure. They're always in the game because they can make a defensive play and they got a couple guys that can shoot the 3," explained Arnhart.
In the second, Highland turned up the pressure on Gosnell coming up with four steals and keeping the Pirates from getting an offensive rebound.
The Rebs went into halftime up 23-20.
Gosnell scored on its first six possessions of the third quarter to retake the lead, 33-26, but the Rebels went on a 12-5 run to tie the game.
Senior Brad Harris led the team with 15 points and Stowers added 14.
Halfway through the first quarter, the Lady Rebels found themselves down 6-2 with Alex Isaacs' two free throws accounting for their only scores. A trey by Sydney Shackelford and a bucket by Bobi Jo Cooper, led Highland to its first lead of the game with a minute to play.
Lady Pirate Shanice McClain hit a free throw and a field goal to give Gosnell a 9-7 opening period advantage.
Isaacs started the second making two shots to keep Highland tied with the Lady Pirates at 11-all, but Gosnell went on a 10-2 run and came up with four steals to keep Highland off the board.
With under a minute to play in the half, Isaacs made a free throw and Shackelford scored to get out of the half down 21-16.
"It seems like we were a little bit tense; a little bit tentative. It wasn't a matter that we played bad," said Lady Rebel Head Coach Harlan Davis. "It was a matter that we didn't a make a lot of great things happen."
Using a 10-3 run to start the second half, Highland took a 25-24 lead, but gave it right back on a Kemahri Soward bucket.
Britney Bair made a free throw to tie the score, but then Gosnell did the same.
Shackelford hit her second 3-pointer of the game to give the Lady Rebs the lead at 29-27, but once again McClain tied it for the Lady Pirates.
Highland ended the third with Cooper hitting two from the charity stripe to put Highland up, 31-29.
Soward, who had 20 points for the game, hit a 3 to start the fourth to give Gosnell the lead for good. Bair gave the Lady Rebs five points in the final period to cut the Gosnell lead to 40-39, which is the closest they would get.
The Lady Pirates went 12-of-6 from the line to ensure the win.
Isaacs scored 13 for Highland and Cooper added 10.
The Rebels finished the season in seventh place with an overall record of 5-16 and 2-12 in the 3-4A conference.
"We competed this year. There were a few blow-outs, but most of the time we were in the game; third, fourth quarter. So I'm proud of my guys for competing. It's hard to compete and stay motivated when the result is a loss. Our theme was to get back up and let's go again. We're going to live to play another day," said Arnhart. "I think we played better in February than we did in November."
For the Lady Rebels, they finished in fourth place with a 13-12 overall record and 8-6 in the conference.
"It just one of those years where we were kind of competitive; kind of cruised along. Wasn't playing great. Wasn't playing bad. It was a good year. It was a competitive year," explained Davis. "As for being disappointed in the year, I'm not disappointed. They are a super, super group of young ladies. So was is it a successful year? Yes, because we turned out a bunch of fine young ladies."