Derick Sandburg has had a knack for important offensive rebounds this season.
For the second time this season, a big offensive rebound by Sandburg led to a Cole Adamson 3-pointer that gave Highland a late lead. Adamson hit the big shot to give Highland the lead and closed it out with four straight free throws for a 62-55 win over Lone Tree.
The win gives Highland a leg up in the SEISC North race and showcased a few key improvements they have made this season.
“That was a huge, huge rebound for us. That could have switched the game either way for us,” Highland coach Bill Zywiec said.
The Huskies took a timeout after the offensive rebound and set up a play with the game tied at 55.
The Huskies set up an inbound play that looked at getting Zack Lasek a shot in the post, but the Lone Tree defense took away his ability to drive. The Huskies then reset and looked inside again. Eventually a pass inside worked back outside and Cole Adamson hit a 3-pointer from the left side.
“I think they thought it was going to Zack (Lasek) because he had a very dominant game,” Adamson said. “When they doubled down on him I popped out to the 3-point line and Derick drove and found me. I could just tell that he was going to pass it to me and I shot the ball.”
Lone Tree took a timeout with 1:10 left in the game and out of that set up a shot for Harmon Miller from midrange. Miller missed the shot and after attempting to steal the ball Lone Tree had to foul and put Adamson at the line with 33.2 seconds left.
Adamson rattled home the front end of the one-and-one opportunity.
“I just had to make it. The last thing I wanted to do is miss the front end and give the other team a possession,” Adamson said. “…You just have to hit that first one and the second one seems to come and you get comfortable on the line.”
Adamson hit the second one and hit a pair later after another Lone Tree miss at the other end. The Lions stopped fouling after that, leading to the 62-55 win.
The Huskies have improved their free-throw shooting to 68.1% as a team this season from 59% a year ago. Adamson specifically has improved from 59% to 76% and McFarland is shooting north of 85% this season. Zywiec said that improvement has come from free throws being a big part of Highland’s practices.
The game had been back-and-forth all game, with the teams staying within a couple possessions almost all game. Highland had a 18-12 lead after one quarter and took a 29-25 lead into halftime. Lone Tree took a lead at 35-34 with 4:20 left in the third quarter, but Colby Stokes quickly gave Highland the lead back with an offensive rebound and putback.
The quarter ended with Highland leading by two at 44-42.
The Huskies did a solid job of playing defense on the leading scorer in the SEISC North, Keegan Edwards. The Huskies held Edwards to 11 points on 4-17 shooting on the night. Zywiec said their defensive plan for him was to sag off screens and take away his ability to drive to the basket.
“He’s a tremendous talent and we talked about with our screen and rolls taking Zack and Derick and sagging off of there to take away those driving lanes,” Zywiec said. “He sees the floor so well, so you can’t allow him to penetrate.”
Edwards still finished the night just one rebound short of a triple-double at 11 points, 10 assists and 9 rebounds.
Cory Krueger finished as the leading scorer for Lone Tree with 17 points and nine rebounds.
The Huskies were led by a double-double 23 points and 11 rebounds from Zack Lasek. Derick Sandburg had 11 rebounds and 3 assists.
The win by Highland sets up an important game with Pekin on Jan. 21. Zywiec said they don’t want to overlook Louisa-Muscatine and Mediapolis their next two games, but a victory over Pekin would help get revenge on their only conference loss and put them in the drivers seat for the conference title.
Lone Tree will look to get back on track by facing Hillcrest Academy for the second time this season. They won the first game 70-64. They then will take on BGM in a non-conference game on Thursday.