With only a couple of games under their belts, the Rebels and Lady Rebels kicked off the 3-4A conference season with pre-Thanksgiving contests against Westside on Nov. 21.
The Lady Rebs (1-3, 1-0) were thankful for a 41-35 victory over the Lady Warriors at the A.L. Hutson Memorial Center.
After four years, the Rebs (1-3, 0-1) finally played against a Hunter Mickelson-less Westside team, but struggled to score, losing 56-29 at the Warrior Dome.
Both Highland teams fell at Batesville Southside on Nov. 22.
The Lady Southerners won 56-28 and the Southerners nipped the Rebels 46-44.
Led by Hope Isaacs' 20 points and using a 10-3 third quarter, the Lady Rebels were able to defeat Westside.
"Seemed like the chemistry was a lot better. We simplified things a little bit. They had more defined roles," explained Lady Rebel Head Coach Harlan Davis. "I thought we did a lot better job taking care of the ball; getting shots inside their zone defense."
Highland had a small 5-4 advantage after one, and the score was tied 20-all at halftime.
Westside rebounded with 12 points in the fourth quarter, but couldn't overcome the Lady Rebs' defensive effort.
"Basically, we didn't give them near as many easy shots. We just had a lot better position and they had to score over top of us a lot more," said Davis.
Although the Rebels were behind 12-0 after one quarter of play, new Highland head coach Johnny Taylor found positives with both the Rebel offense and defense.
"We got the basketball inside a ton. Once we got it there, we had a hard time finishing. They're going to get a lot better. We're going to have a chance to score inside," said Taylor. "Defensively, we had the people shooting the ball in the first half that we wanted. We just couldn't score. First quarter, it was 12 to nothing and the people that scored are people we wanted shooting it."
Ethan Hoppe scored five of his team-leading nine points to start the second to get Highland on the board and Chase Hutchings added four more.
The Rebels found themselves down 33-11 at halftime and 51-22 after three.
For those fans that saw the Rebels play in the Highland Classic, they might expect the Rebs to run and press, but Taylor chose not to do that, for good reason.
"As far as playing fast, we don't have the lineups at times where we can run our press the way we want to. Defensively, you've got to monitor and adjust." said Taylor. "We play back-to-back. That's the other reason we didn't press. Last week that killed us, we would have won both games had we not played back-to-back last week."
In the Classic, the Rebs beat Hoxie 46-41 before falling to Calico Rock 40-38.
Jason Long scored 18 points to nearly get an away victory at Southside.
One of Long's four 3-pointers gave Highland a 23-22 early third quarter lead -- their first lead since the beginning of the second quarter.
Southside regained the lead a few minutes later, but the Rebs kept the game close, tying it up at 44-all with just over two minutes left in the game.
The Southerners finished the last two minutes going two-of-six from the free throw line, but Highland couldn't get a shot to fall to take advantage of it.
The Rebels were up 9-7 after one, but down 22-18 at halftime.
Jalen Belleton had nine points before fouling out and Hoppe added seven points.
The chemistry the Lady Rebels experienced against Westside was not evident at Southside, with Highland giving up double digit points in each quarter, while only scoring in the single digits.
Southside outscored Highland 15-8 in the first quarter and had the Lady Rebs down 28-14 at halftime.
Leanne Fry had eight points and Tabby McNulty seven to lead the team.