LEXINGTON —Highlands held a slim 56-50 lead midway through the fourth quarter before using a 10-0 run to close out its 66-50 win over Ashland during Saturday’s 2021 KHSAA Boys’ Sweet 16 semifinals.

The Bluebirds turned in a smothering defensive effort during the final eight minutes, holding Ashland to a 1-of-12 shooting effort during a key stretch of the game while holding the Tomcats scoreless during the final five minutes.

Highlands’ Sam Vinson turned in another impressive effort, scoring a game-high 27 points thanks to a 12-of-21 shooting effort. He also finished with eight rebounds and four assists. Luke Muller added 15 points while Oliver Harris finished with 10 points.

The Tomcats were 11-of-39 from the floor during the final three-quarters of play and finished with a 19-of-52 clip (36.5 percent). They also shot 9-of-28 from 3-point range with Colin Porter’s 15 points leading the Tomcats. Ethan Sellars finished with 13 points while Cole Villers added 12 points.

Both teams shot the lights out during the first quarter with Ashland Blazer shooting 61.5 percent (8-of-13, including 5-of-8 from 3-point range) while Highlands turned in a 57.1 percent (8-of-14) shooting effort.

Villers scored 10 points in the opening period with six of those coming from two made 3-pointers. Vinson kept the Bluebirds in the game with eight points on 4-of-6 shooting.

Both teams continued to take each other’s best shot until Highlands used a 10-0 run over the final 2:48 of the first half to take a 36-32 advantage at halftime.

A 3-pointer by Muller gave the Bluebirds a 36-32 edge at the 1:10 mark while Vinson’s 16th point of the contest with seven seconds left gave his team a four-point advantage.

Highlands outscored the Tomcats, 19-8, during the second quarter while hitting on 16-of-25 shot attempts in the first half. Ashland cooled down from the floor, hitting only 4-of-11 shot attempts in the second quarter while going 12-of-24 in the first half.

The Bluebirds continued to build on to their lead during the third quarter. Ashland still couldn’t come up with an answer on containing Vinson, who entered the fourth quarter with 22 points on 11-of-16 shooting. Highlands continued to turn in a relentless style of defensive play which allowed the Bluebirds to end the fourth quarter holding on to a 51-44 advantage.

2021 KHSAA Boys’ Sweet 16

at Rupp Arena

Semifinals

Highlands 66, Ashland 50

Highlands 17 19 15 15 66

Ashland    21  11 12  6 50

Highlands (66) — Vinson 27, Barth 9, Muller 15, Harris 10, Herald 3, Read 2.

Ashland (50) — Carter 6, Porter 15, Sellars 13, Villers 12, Marcum 4.

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