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The Highland offensive success in the paint was the story of the night in a 57-33 win over Iowa Mennonite.
A big part of that was 29 points added by Aly Stokes, who from the first possession of the game brought up the ball, cut to the post and put her hand up to call for the ball.
Iowa Mennonite was missing their normal starting center, Alyssa Hershberger, due to a potential concussion in their last game. This left a hole on the inside of the defense for Iowa Mennonite and allowed Stokes and company to pound the paint.
“It helped us a lot that Hershberger was out, she’s a big defensive force for them by controlling the middle and being a good rebounder,” Highland coach Jody Fink said. “Defensively she’s a big help for them and not having her it was something we were able to take advantage of.”
Stokes said it was something the team had identified through watching previous Iowa Mennonite games during film and it ended up being a big success.
“We watched some film yesterday and knew what to expect. Our coach really talked to us about going to the post and opening up,” Stokes said.
The Highland offense started to pull away by starting the second half on a 7-0 run with Stokes driving to the rim, getting fouled and making the basket, Murphy Beinhart making a layup off an intercepted pass and Holly Schneider nailing a baseline jumper.
Over the last nine minutes of the game, the Highland offense outscored Iowa Mennonite 20-5, including a 15-0 run in the last five minutes.
While the second half went the way of the Huskies, during the first half Iowa Mennonite hung around due to three point shooting from Yani Gutierrez and Suzanna Yoder’s relentless pursuit in getting to the rim.
At the end of the first quarter Highland had just a one-point lead at 8-7 and Iowa Mennonite was able to hang around, closing the gap to 16-14 relatively late in the second quarter after Yoder drove to the basket and put in a floater. Highland scored the last four points of the half and took a 20-14 lead into the break.
The difference in the second half was scoring from Iowa Mennonite’s other players dried up. Yoder led the Iowa Mennonite squad with 21 points and scored 15 of 19 second-half points for the home team.
“I thought our first half was pretty decent, the second half we just lost track of Stokes and didn’t move the ball well on the offensive end,” Iowa Mennonite coach Kari Heusinkveld said.
Highland’s Brylee Carolan was back in the lineup after missing the last game due to illness, she added four points, including a baseline drive for the three-point play opportunity in the second half.
Heading into the holiday break Highland is hoping to use the 57-point offensive performance, their highest scoring output of the year by 11 points, to overcome their offensive struggles.
“Hopefully, we’ve really worked super hard to get to this point and I feel that from now reaching that 50-mark we can go even higher next time,” Stokes said.
Both teams will resume play on Jan. 2 after their winter break.
Highland: 8; 12; 19; 18; 57
Iowa Mennonite: 7; 7; 14; 5; 33
Aly Stokes 29
Murphy Beinhart 8
Alyssa Brase 6
Suzanna Yoder 21
Yani Gutierrez 6
Avery Blauvelt 4