Huskies bested by Orioles in second round playoff contest

By TJ Rhodes
Posted 2/22/23

 The Highland Huskies girls’ basketball team completed a big upset win against the English Valleys Bears, a 14-7 team, in the first round of the playoffs. They earned a spot in the second …

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Huskies bested by Orioles in second round playoff contest


 The Highland Huskies girls’ basketball team completed a big upset win against the English Valleys Bears, a 14-7 team, in the first round of the playoffs. They earned a spot in the second round of the playoffs to take on the Springville Orioles. 

The Orioles were on an eight-game winning streak going back to mid-January with an 18-4 record. Highland on the other hand had not won two games in a row since January 17 and 20 against Louisa-Muscatine and Pekin, entering the game with a 10-12 record. 

The matchup against Springville took place on Tuesday, Feb. 14, for a Valentines night showdown. The Huskies potential magical run ended short in this one, falling to the Springville Orioles 54-20 and ending their season.

This is not the first time these teams have met on Valentine’s Day, meeting in a 2005 matchup where Highland won, continuing their playoff run that season.

The Huskies took immediate possession after the opening tip-off, but immediately lost possession to the swarming Oriole defense who flowed to offense majestically to score the first six points of the game, two three-pointers by senior, Ashlynne Zaruba. 

“Springville put a ton of pressure on all night long and that’s something we would like to sit there and do but you got to do it every day at practice,” Head Coach Jody Fink said. “There are no nights off, there are no plays off. You got to sit there and go and we’re capable of doing that, we just got to get our mindset right.”

Highland junior, Sarah Burton, answered with a two-pointer shortly after. Burton led in team scoring with ten and earned a double-double with her team-leading 15 rebounds. 

With a 6-2 score, the Orioles scored the six highlighted by a steal on an attempted Highland pass by senior Molly Stamp, who then worked her way down the court to hit a contested layup past the reeling Husky defense. 

Highland junior, Kerra Longbine, made the next two-pointer for the Huskies before junior, Stella Slaymaker, tracked the Oriole offense and jumped up to block an attempted layup to end the quarter. 

The Huskies had their best quarter in the second. They were outscored 7-11, mitigating the damage. Springville started the scoring before Highland cut the lead in half with a three-pointer banked by sophomore Katie Herrig, who found her corner which she’s been so good from. 

Unfortunately, it was the only time Herrig could find the net. The team struggled to find the net all night, missing shots under the net, missing big threes, missing layups and free throws that could’ve made the game a lot closer.

“We missed a few free throws and come up short on shots,” Fink said. “We had some easy buckets that we could have made, missed those. The pressure just ends up getting there and turnovers just end up being the main factor.” 

Going to halftime, the score was 23-11. It was still within reach for the Huskies.

The Orioles took their 12-point halftime lead and ran away with it in the third quarter. Burton started the scoring, but Springville then scored 20 of the next 25. When Springville was fouled, they did not waste their opportunities, banking many free throws in this game. 

“First half, I thought we did a pretty good job of controlling the ball and tempo there as well. Got [Springville] out of their press, their money maker, everything, but second half, I mean they upped it and continued with it, and they had a little more gas in their tank then we did, and you know, we got tired,” Fink said.

There were only 13 points total scored in the fourth. Whenever Highland had the ball, Springville made sure it was short-lived by stripping the ball and stealing passes on almost every Husky possession. Frustration for the Huskies was building all game, most notably in the second quarter when senior Katelyn Waters was tasked with throwing the ball back into play. No one was able to break free and Waters’ pass fell out of bounds, giving Springville the ball right back. 

Burton scored the final points, hitting both of her free throw chances within the last minute of the game to see the final score of 54-20.

The Highland Huskies have four seniors that see their season and career end with this game. Firstly, Katelyn Waters, who was an integral part of the team. Waters was not expected to be a point guard yet rose to the occasion. She led in assists on the year with 132.

“Katelyn Waters jumped into a spot where, not expecting to play point guard, but did a great job of stepping in there. Not a lot of people could’ve sat there and done that, and she did it with open arms,” Fink said.

Then, Jessica Kraus, who was second in team scoring with 151 on the season. Kraus was also second in team rebounds with 102. 

“Jessica Kraus came in and did a great job,” Fink said. “She improved as the year went on and got better hitting the boards and doing some things there.”

Anna Herrig was the third senior who played on the season. She might’ve not had the minutes on the court, but coach Fink still spoke highly of her efforts and impact on the team.

“[Herrig] gave everything she had every practice and sat there and fought,” Fink said. “Never said a word, the ultimate teammate. She sat there and cheered on every one of her teammates throughout the whole entire season.”

And finally, Abbi Stransky, who ran into terrible luck after tearing her ACL and missing the entire season. During senior night, she was honored by scoring the first points of the game. 

“[Stransky] wasn’t able to sit there and play, that’s a big loss for us, but you know, just having her there for every game and everything is just a huge lift to our kids,” Fink said. “All those seniors there, I mean they had great leadership and everything, but that’s something that will be missed.”

Fink believes the team has a lot to improve over the summer, but can become a great team for next season. He believes the team needs to improve on their shooting, and not to become so dependent on Burton’s scoring ability. Burton led the team in scoring (377) and rebounds (284) with both totals towering over the second place Kraus who still had a great season. 

A good portion of the team will return for next season, meaning that they can use this loss as a growing experience and build upon it. 


Highland 20, Springville 54


        4        7        7         2   --   20


      12     11      20       11   --   54

HIGHLAND SCORING: Sarah Burton 10, Katelyn Waters 3, Katie Herrig 3

HIGHLAND REBOUNDS: Burton 15, Stella Slaymaker 9, Jessica Kraus 5

HIGHLAND ASSISTS: Waters 2, Kraus 1, Burton 1


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