Coach Gregg Preston stepped away from the whiteboard in the locker room to address his team. "Some of the coaches were saying," he started, looking at his players in the eye after a strong first-half. His following words cut through the excitement of a 52-39 halftime lead over a top 10 team in the Waubun Bombers. But Preston wasn't concerned with the score. His Comets had work to do. Were it not for strong shooting, Preston communicated to his team, they would likely be down 10 points entering the second half. Things had to change.
The first half saw Hillcrest jump out of the gate with aggression. It was clear the Bombers were expecting a different team. Hillcrest played their first few offensive series like they were in a shooting practice. Jumping up 13 points, Hillcrest went to their bench after a Waubun time-out with a clear handle on the game, playing the kind of Basketball that is turning heads in their conference. But Waubun is a top 10 team for a reason. They came out of the huddle and leveled the score, returning to their bench after a Comet timeout that caused fans to wonder if the tables were turning. However, Preston's Comets bounced back. Chris Tungseth and Kyler Newman performed a rare tag-team scoring effort that dominated the following possessions and took-over the game for the Comets.
Hillcrest left the half up 52-39 after stalling a failed final shot attempt by the Bombers. The defensive stand characterized the first half, where Hillcrest worked to stifle a very athletic, very capable Waubun team. Preston's stat sheet showed some big holes that the Comets needed to repair if they hoped to stay on top of the Bombers. Rebounds were few and far between for the Comets, especially on defense where Hillcrest's leaping athleticism was matched man-for-man with Waubun. Hillcrest's guards, known for their ability to grab a rebound and push the ball up the court, were seen holding single fingers in the air to display how many boards they grabbed in the first half. This was a fundamental Coach wanted to address, working to pull-up their work on the glass to match their season average of 39 rebounds per game.
The second half whistle called the Comets to a new level. Up 13 points, Hillcrest's backcourt knew they needed separation. Chris Tungseth was the first to step up and generate some wiggle room for Hillcrest. His hot hand and smooth approach behind the line allowed him to give 7 assists from the outside. Quick passes to Shawn McGuire, who streaked to the low block throughout the night, gave McGuire a season high 20 points as he shot 90% (9/10) from the floor.
McGuire's high percentage shots opened the perimeter for a dazzling night of the Comet long ball. Tungseth led the way with 11 3-pointers, hitting 69% (11/16) from behind the arc. Kyler Newman followed Tungseth's lead as the two fed each other the ball while the Bombers looked to recover from the Comet's inside-out passing game. Newman hit 71% (5/7) of his three point attempts, opening the door for 24 points.
Newman and Tungseth willed the Comets to victory, clearly taking over the game as the Bombers worked to shift gears and reset their game plan throughout the night. Tungseth ended the night with a season high 39 points. His three point shot was on target, providing confidence for a Comet team that shot 58% (39/67) from the floor and 59% (17/29) from behind the arc. Hillcrest closed the game with the scoreboard reading 102-77.
Despite the score, the Comets know they have a lot of work to do. The 102 point tally isn't something that they're focusing on. "It was one of those rare games that rarely occurs when both teams shoot the ball and execute so well offensively," noted Preston in recapping the game.
Hillcrest ended the game with 31 rebounds, 11 steals and 11 turnovers. The stats reveal a lot of hard work that the Comets are putting in before the Christmas break. Having overcome one of the key hurdles in their early season, Hillcrest looks to tighten their approach to defense, and streamline their execution on the offensive side of the court. Their 25 point victory over a top 10 team is respectable, but their sights are set for something much higher. This disciplined approach to the game is what earned Preston 400 wins; and its what is turning heads in the state as Hillcrest looks to continue to develop their team around focus, toughness, and a godly character as they continue their simple work on the Basketball court.
Hillcrest looks forward to Brandon-Evansville Tuesday, in Brandon, at 7:15pm.