The scoreboard read 47-19 at halftime, and Hillcrest's coaches huddled in the hallway to discuss further driving a team that is averaging 79 points per game compared to their opponents' 48. The coaches are busy teaching their team to execute fundamentals. In drawing up game plans before the game, coaches hear locker room buzz that celebrates great passing and tough defense over ankle-breaking drives and three-point scoring.
"Our halfcourt defense and offensive transition the first half was a big reason that we jumped out to a big first half," said Comet Head Coach Gregg Preston recalling the game. Fans were treated to smiling Comet players whose low defensive stance put them in position to break-up passes from Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley (CGB). The broken passes turned into fast-break drills for the Comets. Running three offenders wide, the Comets had their pick on scoring, finding passing lanes open and streaking layups that left five Comet players with double-digits in the scoring column as the game ended.
Hillcrest's backcourt ran the table for the fourth game in a row. For every offensive threat CGB put at half court, Tommy Thompson met it to shut down the dribble and force CGB to make petty passes on the perimeter. These passes turned into quick points for Thompson, who combined with Comet wing Chris Tungseth for 34 points in the first half.
CGB is a perennial powerhouse in the paint. Their football season tends to transition nicely to their basketball strategy, where dominating rebounds and inlets for layups drive post players to rise above opponents. Hillcrest faced it's first physical challenge in the paint for the year, and they met their match with gritted teeth and consistent play. "Nate Frustol had his best effort as he was aggressive in the paint, especially in the second half," noted Preston. Frustol's tough play earned him 12 points before the final buzzer, contributing mightily to Hillcrest's 41 second half points as CGB looked to shutdown Tungseth and Thompson.
Joining Thompson in shutting down CGB in the second half were Jordan Foss, Reggie Undseth, and Kyler Newman. Stopping CGB at mid-court kept entry passes from putting Tungseth and Frustol in foul trouble in the paint. Thompson finished the game with 14 points, with McGuire and Newman putting up 12 and 11 respectively. Hillcrest's line-changes enables consistent and energetic guard play where tough defense doesn't only lead to steals, but opens lanes for consistent rebounds. Newman and Daniel Preston both pulled down 5 rebounds in the game as they crashed the glass and contributed stats that propel Hillcrest to a top spot in their section after graduating a strong senior class with a 1000 point scorer.
The 2015 Comets are a new-look team after the consistent reign of Jake Isaac in the paint. Now the Comets dominate on the perimeter. They shot 54% (35-65) for the night, making 44% (8/18) three-pointers. The high field goal percentage is due in part to guards crashing the glass, pulling down an incredible 40 rebounds compared to CGB's pedestrian 20 boards.
The Comets head to practice Tuesday with a skip in their step. Coaches comment that the team is ahead of where coaches expected them to be at this point of the season. They now look to host Waubun on Thursday night in a game with the section favorite at 7:15pm in Hillcrest's Student Activity Center.