FORT THOMAS – Scotty Draud was playing his final game in the building where his father made a big name for himself as a Highlands basketball player.
Scott Draud, who scored 2,865 points for Highlands and later played for Vanderbilt from 1986-1991, is one of six Highlands graduates who has a framed jersey on the wall of the Highlands gymnasium.
His son led all players in scoring with 26 points to help Beechwood defeat Highlands 67-63 Friday night in a battle of two of Northern Kentucky’s top teams, and two of the top Division II conference squads. Beechwood is 13-3 and Highlands 9-4.
Scotty Draud said he didn’t put any pressure on himself because of his father’s name; he just wanted to get a win for his team.
“It’s a great quality team win for us,” he said. “Highlands is a great team. They make a lot of bursts and play at a fast pace. I think we controlled the tempo for most of the game and we were able to hit some big shots at the right times.”
Draud had 26 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists as he battled with Highlands’ standout senior guard Sam Vinson, an NKU commit. The two are both in the conversation for Northern Kentucky player of the year and potential Mr. Basketball nomination.
Vinson had 23 points, 11 rebounds, five blocks and three steals. At times, Draud and Vinson guarded each other.
“It’s awesome,” Draud said. “Me and Sam have been buddies for a while, so it’s great to go out there and compete against great people.”
The key for Beechwood was limiting Vinson’s touches and holding the Bluebirds, who were averaging 80 points a game on offense, to just 63. Senior Cameron Decker also guarded Vinson.
“It’s a big-time environment on the road against one of the best teams in Northern Kentucky and the reigning Northern Kentucky player of the year,” said Beechwood head coach Erik Goetz said. “We did a great job defensively. They score a ton of points and they’re a really hard matchup. We really battled and shared the basketball.”
Vinson and Draud each had 12 points in the first half. Beechwood took a 19-8 lead on six points by Draud. Highlands tied it at 26 on a 7-0 run, including two baskets by Cole Kocher and a basket by Vinson. Vinson then scored two more baskets to put Highlands up 30-28 at halftime.
Beechwood started fast in the third quarter on an 11-2 run, and led by eight, 47-39 after three quarters.
Highlands came right back with a 14-4 run, with a 3-pointer by Luke Muller giving the Bluebirds a 53-51 lead. Beechwood senior Will Downton tied the game at 55 with his fourth dunk of the half, a breakaway after stealing the ball at midcourt.
With Beechwood leading 57-55, Oliver Harris tied the game for Highlands. Downton, who committed to NAIA power Indiana University-East this week, hit a 3-pointer to give Beechwood the lead for good at 60-57 with over a minute to play. He ended with 19 points.
“It’s nice to get that first (dunk) out of the way,” he said. “It’s just the same thing as a layup, you get two points. Last year, they beat us by 25 at home so it felt good to beat them here."
Besides Draud and Downton, the Tigers start three Camerons: Hergott, Boyd and Decker. Hergott is, of course, better known as a state champion quarterback but also brings leadership and defense to the hardcourt. Decker, a senior, is one of the team’s top rebounders and sophomore Boyd has emerged as a strong shooter.
Goetz said it’s important to keep building the core around his senior stars as the Tigers reach midseason.
“They have really matured,” he said. “They were both good players but they’ve taken a step forward in their senior season. I couldn’t ask any more of them. They’re playing unselfishly and they play with great maturity and efficiency.”
BEECHWOOD (13-3): Downton 7 2 19, Hergott 1 0 3, Draud 8 10 26, Boyd 4 1 11, Decker 3 0 6, Eviston 1 0 2. Totals: 24 13 67.
HIGHLANDS (9-4): Kocher 4 0 8, Vinson 9 5 23, Read 1 0 3, Muller 6 1 16, Herald 2 0 5, Harris 2 0 4. Totals: 26 6 63.