Highland's Connor Klein grabs a rebound against Tallmadge's Daniel Kurko during the second quarter. (RON SCHWANE / GAZETTE)
GRANGER TWP. — The Highland boys basketball team is calling the second half of the Suburban League American Conference schedule “The Revenge Tour,” and the motto applies even when there’s no revenge to be had.
The resurgent Hornets beat Tallmadge for the second time this season Friday, this one a convincing 63-47 decision in which every starter played well as Highland won its fourth straight game after a 6-10 start.
Seven of the Hornets’ losses have come by six points or fewer, including three at or near the buzzer, but Highland (10-10, 5-5) took no such chances this time after squeaking by Tallmadge (9-10, 6-5) 70-66 on Jan. 8.
“These last couple of games we’ve been working hard,” said small forward Bryce Profitt, who finished with 21 points, nine rebounds and four assists. “We’re calling it, ‘The Revenge Tour.’ We’re going through the league for the second time and showing people we should have a better record.”
The Hornets never lost the lead after a Profitt 3-pointer put them up 14-11 with 3:18 left in the opening period. The 6-foot-2 junior finished the quarter with 13 points as Highland took a 24-16 lead.
“I felt pretty good,” Profitt said. “My teammates were getting me the ball and I was attacking every time. Shots were going in or I was getting to the line.”
The Blue Devils, who had won five of their previous six games, made it a two-point contest with 2:42 left in the third period, but the Hornets got some steals out of their man-to-man defense and extended their lead to seven by the end of the quarter.
In a definite sign of growth, Highland was never seriously threatened in the fourth period of its most recent Revenge Tour game.
“Coach (Adam Cestaro) came up with it,” center Ryan Chema said of the motto. “It’s been a fun way to finish the second half of the season.”
A team that would be 17-3 if it had won every close game it played — the Hornets have also come out on the winning side a few times, so 15-5 or 14-6 is probably more realistic — Highland used great defense and solid all-around play offensively to dispatch Tallmadge.
Chema finished with 13 points and six boards, but the 6-2 senior’s biggest contribution was holding 21.1-point Tallmadge scorer Brandon Heigelmann (14 points, 5 rebounds) to 0-for-5 shooting and one point in the first half.
“We were trying to get the ball out of his hands and force other players to make plays,” Chema said. “He’s kind of their offense, so if he doesn’t have the ball, that kind of slows them down.”
Power forward Alex Jaworski added 10 points, four rebounds and four assists for the Hornets, while point guard Jake Osborne played a great floor game in finishing with six points, six boards and three assists.
Shooting guard Cole Tessena battled some early foul trouble but put up nine points while forcing Blue Devils point guard Nick Hussing, a 15.1-point scorer, to work extremely hard for his nine points.
Hussing, who had a game-high five assists, didn’t get his first bucket until the 4:19 mark of the second period, while Heigelmann hit his first field goal with 7:43 left in the third, when he scored 11 of his points as the Blue Devils briefly clawed back into the game.
Small forward Sam Seeker had 12 points for Tallmadge, all coming off bullish left-handed drives, but the Blue Devils managed just nine points in the second period and eight in the fourth.
“We’ve started trusting our teammates so much more,” Chema said. “We’re sharing the ball on offense, and our defense has led to great offensive scores.”
That’s a vast improvement from the first 15 games, when the Hornets often played well enough to stay in games but had just enough bad stretches to lose a number of them.
“It was very important to get off to a good start, and it helped us at the end,” Profitt said. “We know we can take it into crunch time, but now we keep trying to extend the lead every time.”
“We knew we were still pretty good (even after losses),” Chema added. “We just weren’t putting it all together. Once we did, we started getting all these wins in a row.”
Highland won the junior varsity game 45-37 behind 12 points from Rob Huttner.
Contact Rick Noland at email@example.com. Follow him @RickNoland on Twitter.
Highland 63, Tallmadge 47
TALLMADGE 16 9 14 8 — 47
HIGHLAND 24 9 13 17 — 63
Tallmadge — Sam Seeker 5-2-12, Brandon Heigelmann 5-3-14, Daniel Turko 0-0-0, Jake Gardella 2-0-6, Nick Hussing 3-3-9, Sean Ambrose 0-2-2, Luke Thomas 2-0-4, Ethan Taylor 0-0-0, Andrew Ayers 0-0-0, Steve Zesiger 0-0-0, Nate Zappola 0-0-0, Nick Joyner 0-0-0, Liam Tokash 0-0-0. TOTALS: 17-10-47.
Highland — Bryce Profitt 8-4-21, Alex Jaworski 5-0-10, Ryan Chema 5-2-13, Cole Tessena 3-1-9, Jake Osborne 2-2-6, Tommy Williams 0-1-1, Connor Klein 0-1-1, Preston Grinder 1-0-2, Rob Huttner 0-0-0, Blake Kalina 0-0-0, Liam McFadden 0-0-0, Carson Levandowski 0-0-0. TOTALS: 24-11-63.
3-point goals — Gardella 2, Heigelmann, Tessena 2, Profitt, Chema. Rebounds — Tallmadge 21 (Heigelmann, Thomas 5), Highland 32 (Profitt 9). Assists — Tallmadge 6 (Hussing 5), Highland 13 (Profitt, Jaworski 4). Records — Tallmadge (9-10, 6-5), Highland (10-10, 5-5). Junior varsity — Highland 45, Tallmadge 37.