They carried that momentum to the Berryville Holiday Hoops Tournament and beat Monett, Missouri, 62-49, in the opening round on Thursday, Dec. 27. The Rebs led the home team early, but fell to Berryville, 65-54, on Friday, Dec. 28. Highland should have played Pocahontas for third place, but the teams decided they didn't want to play a conference team at the tournament. Highland chose to play Jasper instead and needed overtime to beat the Wildcats, 43-41.
In a oddly heated contest against Hillcrest at Lynn on Friday, Jan. 4, Highland couldn't overcome Screamin' Eagle Zach Doyle's 45 point night falling 85-77.
The Rebels started the season 0-6, but have won three of the last five.
"We're guarding a lot better on defense. We're making better decisions with the basketball, and the kids are starting to get into basketball mode, and I think that's the biggest thing," said Rebel Coach Jeremy Lewis. "Our kids are athletic and they know what's going on, but it's just about doing the right things all of the time."
Highland started with an 12-0 run and cruised to a 20-5 first quarter lead against Harrisburg. A 13-0 run in the middle of the second extended their lead to 40-20 at halftime. The Hornets rebounded with 25 points in the third, but the Rebs still led 57-45. Highland went 8 of 10 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter. Avery Johnson led the Rebels with 31 points, Sterling Stowers and Colby McGuire added 16 and 12, respectively.
In the first round of the Berryville Tournament, the Monett Cubs took an early 4-2 lead, but Highland finished the quarter on a 14-3 run and led 16-7. The score was 29-21 at halftime, and 42-34 after three. Johnson had 21 points for the Rebs, Ethan Hoppe scored 17 and Stowers 12.
Highland was holding its own against a tough Berryville team. They led 18-17 after one and were down just 36-33 at halftime, but with Stowers sitting after a third quarter technical and Johnson fouling out early in the fourth, the Rebs didn't have enough to win the game. The Bobcats led 50-45 after three, and the Rebels could only manage nine points in the fourth. Hoppe led Highland with 17 points.
Two nights in a hotel and three games in three days can wear on a team, which was evident in the Highland-Jasper matchup. Highland used Cody Odell's four points to lead the Pirates 9-4 after one. Johnson had four points in the second, but Jasper ended the quarter on an 8-2 run to cut into the Rebs lead 17-13. Only getting a bucket from Johnson and four points from Hoppe, Highland allowed Jasper to take their first lead at 24-23 with a minute left in the third, but Charlie Fuller swatted in a put back to retake the lead.
The two teams would exchange leads five times in the fourth with Jasper holding a 37-34 advantage as time was running out. Stowers hit a buzzer trey from the corner to send the game into overtime. Highland got two free throws from Odell, and Johnson made two key steals from layups, albeit one was an authoritative dunk, to get the Rebs the victory.
"The thing that pleased me about tonight is we had a lead, lost the lead, had to make a big shot to get it into overtime, and didn't fold," explained Lewis. "It's a very good win for Highland."
Johnson led the team with 14 and Hoppe added 11.
Highland often plays the area teams of Salem, Viola, Mammoth Spring and ICC, but rarely travels to Lynn to play Hillcrest. Maybe Coach Lewis brought the rivalry with him from Viola, but the play was aggressive and the crowd overly vocal. Lewis even had words with one Eagle patron as he crossed the court at halftime.
The Rebels got points from five players on their way to a 26-21 first quarter lead. Hillcrest started the second with a 7-0 run with all points coming from Zach Doyle to take the lead. Highland had the score tied 38-all right before half, but the Eagles got a trey from Hunter Nunnally as time ran out. The Rebs took the lead again at 48-45 midway through the third and held on to until Colman Evans hit a three-pointer near the end of the period. Johnson responded with his own three to give Highland a 59-57 advantage.
Doyle went to the free throw line 19 times in the fourth connecting on 13 of them for Hillcrest. The Rebs lost five players to fouls in the final period, including Johnson, Stowers and Hoppe
Highland (3-8, 0-4) was led by Johnson with 36 points, Stowers 12 and Odell 11.