Powered by the nearly unstoppable Moshawn Thomas, the Highland men’s basketball team rang up not only a win Saturday against host IVCC, but also its 16th straight Arrowhead Conference title.
The 6-foot-7 freshman poured in 31 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to lead the Cougars to a 96-58 win over the Eagles.
Highland finished the regular season with a 24-6 overall record and 11-1 mark in the conference.
The game, rescheduled from Jan. 7, was Highland’s 11th straight win. IVCC finished the regular season 10-18 overall and 1-9 in the conference.
In the first game of the afternoon, the IVCC women’s basketball team had four scorers in double figures to down Highland 76-59.
Highland 96, IVCC 58
Highland dominated from the opening tip as the Cougars scored the first 14 points of the game.
IVCC did not get on the board until Torrance Johnson put back a rebound at the 13:21 mark of the first half to make it 14-2.
When the Cougars weren’t feeding inside to Thomas, Joseph Gripper was draining 3-pointers. Highland led by as much as 32-7 midway through the half.
The Eagles were able to close to within 33-18 after Mendota graduates Ross Arteaga and Drake O’Donnell each hit a 3-pointer.
But the closing minutes of the half belonged to Highland as it went on a 16-6 run to take a 49-24 halftime lead.
Thomas, who scored 14 points in the first half, ended the Cougars’ scoring on a backwards dunk in the closing seconds.
“We have a specific plan of attack to get him the ball inside,” Highland coach Nathan Courtney said of Thomas. “But I think the best part of our game is our defense and our transition. But if you want to walk it and play slow, we’re not bad at that either.”
The second half saw Highland start slow, and the Eagles going to their outside game.
IVCC went on a 10-0 run to open the second half.
O’Donnell had a pair of 3-pointers in that stretch, and the Eagles closed the gap to 49-34. Highland didn’t score until Gripper hit a 3-pointer at the 15:53 mark.
But it didn’t take long for the Cougars to recover, and when James Boone hit a 3-pointer with 6:25 left in the game, they led 79-49.
“It’s been a difficult season with people going off and coming on the roster,” said IVCC coach Tommy Canale, who is in his seventh season. “But they are always tough. You can see why they’ve won their 16th conference title in a row.”
O’Donnell led IVCC with 24 points, including 15 in the second half. Arteaga added 14.
Boone had 21 points for the Cougars, while Gripper added 16.
IVCC 76, Highland 59
The Lady Eagles led most of the way, but a second-half rally by Highland saw the Lady Cougars take a 44-42 lead on a 3-pointer by Marisha Moore with 11:37 left.
With the game tied at 47-47, IVCC’s Kayla MacDavitt and Jessica Jessen took over.
MacDavitt, a 6-foot St. Bede alumna, scored 13 of her 18 points in the second half, including 5-for-5 from the free throw line. Jessen, a Marquette graduate, poured in 15 of her game-high 24 in the second half.
“It was a good win,” IVCC coach Tom Ptak said. “I like the fact we were a little more deliberate, and that we handled their press well. We made our free throws (18-of-22) when we needed to, and made good decisions.”
C.J. Rhodes and Kara Kistenfenger scored 12 points each for IVCC.
The Lady Eagles finished the regular season 11-15 overall and 4-7 in the conference.
Moore led Highland in scoring with 23.
“We didn’t play to win,” Highland coach Chris Westlake said. “There was no fight in them. We’ve beaten some good teams, but other times we just don’t show up.”
Rick LaFollette can be reached at 220-6939, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.