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Dixie Heights takes 22-game winning streak into state tournament, meets Russell on Thursday night

By Don Owen
NKyTribune sports editor

Joel Steczynski chuckled when asked about the key to the 22-game winning streak his Dixie Heights girls basketball team will take into the state tournament at Rupp Arena this Thursday night.

“The key to our winning streak is we’re not really worried about a winning streak,” said Steczynski, who has coached Dixie Heights to a 27-2 record and the 9th Region championship this season. “We’re a lot more worried about getting better each day.”

Dixie Heights guard Sydney Lockard drives against Highlands during the 9th Region Tournament. (Photo by Dale Dawn)

Dixie Heights will face 16th Region champion Russell (19-5) at 8 p.m. Thursday. The Colonels defeated Notre Dame in overtime to capture the 9th Region Tournament title and earned their first trip to the Sweet 16 since 1992.

In that victory, Samantha Berman led Dixie Heights with 12 points — including a trio of 3-pointers. Sydney Lockard finished with 11 points for the Colonels, while teammate Madelyn Lawson grabbed a team-high 14 rebounds.

Lawson leads Dixie Heights in both scoring (14.4 ppg) and rebounding (8.2 rpg). Lockard averages 12.2 points per contest, while Laci Reinhart adds 11.6 ppg.

Berman is scoring 9.0 points per game for the balanced Dixie Heights attack.

“We’re sharing the ball really well,” Steczynski said. “This might be the most unselfish team I’ve ever been around.”

Steczynski said injuries last season allowed younger players to step into major roles, and that experience has helped Dixie Heights fashion a 22-game winning streak heading into the state tournament.

“Last year we had a couple of key injuries (Reinhart and Lawson) that allowed our freshmen at that time who are now sophomores to get a lot of experience,” he said.

Dixie Heights’ Samantha Berman (21) defends against Notre Dame’s Lacey Bradshaw. (Photo by Dale Dawn)

Berman, Ella Steczynski (5.8 ppg) and Reese Smith (5.2 ppg) are part of that talented sophomore class. Steczynski buried a pair of 3-pointers during the win over Notre Dame, while Smith added five points and grabbed seven rebounds.

Dixie Heights also features an experienced floor leader in Lockard, who has scored 1,570 career points.

“Sydney Lockard is a five-year starting point guard,” Steczynski said. “She does a number of things really well that have helped us win a lot of games.”

Dixie Heights will meet a familiar opponent in Russell.

“Last year we faced Russell at a tournament in Pikeville,” Steczynski said, recalling his team dropped a 76-55 decision to the Red Devils in that game. “They have a really tough point guard, a very strong (inside) player and they’re surrounded by some outstanding shooters.”

Russell has won 14 of its past 15 games, including a 72-61 victory over Boyd County in the 16th Region Tournament championship contest. Aubrey Hill leads Russell in scoring at 14.7 points per game.

Hill also grabs a team-best 7.0 rebounds per contest. Shaelyn Steele averages 13.7 points per game.

The winner of the Dixie Heights/Russell game will meet either Henderson County (18-4) or Apollo (16-6) at 8 p.m. Friday. The semifinals are set for Saturday at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., with the championship game scheduled for 8 p.m. that evening.

Don Owen is sports editor of the Northern Kentucky Tribune. Contact him at don@nkytrib.com and follow him on Twitter at @dontribunesport.

Dixie Heights players celebrate after capturing the 9th Region championship with a 45-43 overtime win against Notre Dame last week. (Photo by Dale Dawn)

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One Comment

  1. Warren Brattain says:

    How did the staff of DHHS leave Samantha Berman off the All-Tournament team? She did what she did coming off the bench. What game were they watching? Hard to believe that such an effort is not recognized for what it was. I guess name recognition counts for more than what you do.

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