PALMYRA, Mo. (WGEM) -- They were down but the Highland basketball team was never out.
Trailing by 13 points halfway through the third quarter in Saturday's district championship game against Clark County, the Cougars made their move.
Over the next five minutes of the contest Highland went on a 21-8 run to pull even with the Indians, and executed well enough during the last seven minutes to snag a 70-67 victory, and earn a district title plaque for the first time in five years.
It was a special ending for first year head coach Brian Leeser and his veteran led group.
"This is the first championship for these seniors," Leeser said. "We haven't had one since 2008, and they really worked hard the last week or two to get to this point."
According to senior guard Brandon Davie, the Cougars were relentless.
"We had to have a lot of heart, a lot of emotion to dig back in because we knew Clark (County)had a lot of heart," Davie said.
"They're really big and it was a battle for the inside game defensively."
The outcome may not have been as positive if not for the heroics of junior guard Jack Neisen who came off the bench to score five crucial fourth quarter points, and forced several Clark County turnovers in the final minutes.
"Jack was able to come out there when we weren't getting any shots outside when they were keying on (Derick) Smith and Davie, and it just allowed us to get somebody else open out there," Leeser explained.
"It gave us a big spark, because it's just not him out there looking to shoot three's, it's looking to get the ball inside to our big people and have them score also."
"It was huge," he said of Neisen.
"We really needed someone like that to step up, and Jack did a perfect job. Perfect timing."
Next up for Highland is Southern Boone who defeated Hallsville 80-78 in double overtime on Sunday night.
The Class 3 sectional showdown in Mexico is scheduled for Wednesday at 6 p.m.
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