HIGHLAND — No. 5 Labette is now firmly planted in the driver’s seat of the Kansas Jayhawk Conference after beating the No. 7 Highland Scotties 75-62 on the road on Wednesday. The loss also snapped a 49-game home winning streak for Highland that dated back to Jan. 23, 2017.
The win puts Labette alone in first place in the KJCCC with a 6-1 conference record and 20-4 overall mark.
Highland dropped to 19-2 overall and 5-2 in conference action. The Scotties are tied with No. 6 Johnson County for second place in the KJCCC.
Wednesday also marked the first time Rolls has ever beaten Highland on the road.
“It’s significant to get that monkey off your back,” Rolls said. “It feels good. The best part is moving into sole possession of first place and putting ourselves in a good position for Sophomore Night on Saturday.”
Labette and Highland traded runs for most of the afternoon, but the Cardinals never trailed after the first three minutes of the first quarter.
At the end of the third quarter, the Cardinals and Scotties were tied at 45-45. Highland then missed its first 10 shots of the fourth quarter while Labette scored 30 points in the final period to pull away once and for all.
“We had a great first half,” Rolls said. “Going up 11 at half felt really good. But Highland is a hot-shooting team. When they tied it at 45, we weren’t following the scouting report. Once we locked back in, we got stops and got the win. The girls really gutted it out on the road.”
Denijsha Wilson led Labette with 23 points on 6-of-11 shooting, including a 3-of-4 performance from behind the arc and an 8-of-10 day at the charity stripe.
The diminutive guard also pulled down a team-high eight rebounds and dished out five assists.
“She’s one of those kids where I don’t draw up any plays for,” Rolls said. “She’s just better than the person guarding her. For her to step up in a huge game like this, we needed that. She did it all for her teammates.”
Center Angel Williams added 12 points — 10 coming in the second half — and eight boards as well.
“She played her butt off,” Rolls said. “She didn’t get a lot of playing time because they had five guards out there. Had she played another five minutes, she has a double-double.”
Armani Turner paced the Scotties with 26 points on 8-of-14 shooting.
In a conference where four out of six teams — No. 5 Labette, No. 6 Johnson County, No. 7 Highland and No. 15 Kansas City Kansas — are ranked in the top 15, it’s the Cardinals that now control their own destiny to a conference title and a top seed in the Region VI Tournament.
A share of the conference title is nearly locked up for Labette. The Cardinals face Johnson County on Saturday, but even a loss then would leave Labette tied with games against the two unranked opponents — Fort Scott and Hesston — remaining.
“It’s huge for our program,” Rolls said. “We’re taking that next step. We’ve been a national powerhouse, but we’re taking that next step to being one of the best Division II teams in the country.”
Labette just won perhaps the biggest regular season game of the last decade for the program. It’ll be tasked to repeat that feat on Saturday against the sixth-ranked Cavaliers.
“Johnson has a couple of really good players,” Rolls said. “We’ve got to have really good scout the next two days. But it’s also Sophomore Night. I want them to show out for their families and have the best day of their lives.”
No. 5 Labette 75, No. 7 Highland 62
Labette: 14 20 11 30 — 75
Highland: 11 12 22 17 — 62
Labette: Kymora Westerfield 11, Jayla Smith 9, Diamond Jones 7, Jordan Chiles 4, Angel Williams 12, Jessica Martino 4, Gift Sampson 1, Denijsha Wilson 23, Ariah Powell 4
Highland: Erin Randle 4, Khaliah Hines 4, Armani Turner 26, Tiana Gipson 10, Belinda Ames 2, Jasmine Elder 2, Jahnari Byrdlong 10, Charlay Conway 4