By JOSH RIZZO
Herald-Whig Sports Writer
MEXICO, Mo. -- Try as he might to keep the Highland boys basketball team's season afloat, Derick Smith could only do so much.
Southern Boone's size was just too much.
Despite getting 30 points and eight rebounds from Smith, the Cougars were outrebounded by 16 and dropped an 87-73 decision in the Class 3 sectional Wednesday night at Mexico High School.
"One thing, we allowed them to get to the basket way too easy," Highland coach Brian Leeser said. "We didn't screen out on the backside when they did miss a shot. We just allowed them to get to the boards too easy."
Still, Smith did his best to appreciate what the Cougars accomplished.
"It was outstanding," Smith said about his senior season. "Four years in high school, this is the first time we won a district title. I wanted to lay something down for the seniors coming up to win something to."
Nick Carlos, a 6-foot-7 forward who has committed to Division I Central Michigan, scored 28 points and grabbed 12 rebounds for the Eagles. Brice Mueller also had a double-double for Southern Boone, finishing with 16 points and 10 rebounds.
After the two teams traded baskets to the start the game, the Eagles (22-6) went on a 9-0 run to build their lead to 19-7 with 2 minutes, 1 second remaining in the first quarter. While Highland (16-10) managed to cut the lead to 32-26 with 3:24 left before halftime, the Cougars wouldn't get closer than six points for the rest of the game.
"They got into us and pressured on defense, and we weren't ready for it," Smith said. "When they got up, we didn't respond like we should have."
Highland shot 27 of 57 from the field and focused on working the ball inside to Smith and Austin Richmiller, who finished with 21 points and six rebounds.
"Highland did a nice job of getting the ball inside," Southern Boone coach Andy Jahnsen said. "That surprised me. They got some big boards and putbacks early."
The Eagles led 40-33 at halftime and used a 6-0 run at the beginning of the third quarter to gain separation.
"They are the team that pushed us the farthest away from the basket to run our offense," Leeser said. "We were running our offense at half-court instead of at the 3-point line."