Eyebrows raised in the stands as players huddled around Chris Tungseth following the final buzzer in Tuesday night's game. The Senior guard was flanked by coaches and friends who were clapping. Their cheers increased after Head Coach Gregg Preston returned from the scorers table.
Tungseth broke Hillcrest's single game scoring record on what appeared to be an average night for the senior. The accolade surprised fans who saw the senior battling a head cold, taking a few trips to the locker-room throughout the game, holding his stomach. The beleaguered senior scored 44 points, besting the 1987 record held by Scott Colbeck of 41 points. Tungseth was propped by teammates, who contributed a complete game to match Tungseth's scoring, pushing Hillcrest to a 15-0 record with a 91-78 win over Breckenridge.
Tungseth's performance Tuesday was similar to challenging games the Comets faced in their undefeated stride. When Hillcrest faced then #9 ranked Waubun, Tungseth shot 57% from the floor, making 13 buckets on his way to 39 points in a dominant game. The game tagged Gregg Preston with his 400th win as the Comet's coach. It was the first time a Preston-led team broke the century mark, joining for pictures with the famed coach after the 102-77 victory. Tungseth's strong night against Waubun saw two other Comets in double-figures, as Tungseth co-led the team in assists with 9, finding good company with Tommy Thompson, Hillcrest's point guard.
Tungseth's other knock on the door for the scoring accolade came against conference favorite Battle Lake. Another fantastic shooting effort delivered 40 points on 14/26 shooting (54%), where Tungseth went to work on the glass, pulling down 11 rebounds and delivering 4 assists for the night.
"His (Chris') 44 points were generally in our offense and from a variety of spots on the floor," noted Preston in recapping Chris' scoring achievement. As Breckenridge left the court Tuesday night, fans crowded Tungseth in celebration of his feat. Few will forget the game, but Tungseth's scoring didn't appear the focal point throughout the night.
From the opening tip the Breckenridge Cowboys looked to assert dominance, something that hasn't been done against the Comets this season. Recognizing that the Comets have one of the most athletic front courts in the area, the Cowboys worked the Comet paint. With Hillcrest setting in for defense, seeing the game plan unfold for the Cowboys, a series of quick substitutions neutralized Breckenridge's offensive attack.
Nate Frustol stepped into the paint to help defend against the Cowboy big men. Ball reversals and pump-fakes put the Comets in tough positions on defense, forcing some untimely fouls that appeared poised to equalize Hillcrest's athletic abilities with the Cowboys. Frustol stepped in to support Hillcrest's key defenders. Junior Kyler Newman is the Comet's ball-hawk who shuts down offenses almost single-handedly. Kyler's head is on swivel on defense, stepping in to help out teammates and breaking to the glass when a shot is in the air. Newman earned his fourth foul midway through the second half, shortly before Chris Tungseth and Sean McGuire picked up theirs. With the Cowboys making a surge at the end of the game, Frustol offered consistent play in the paint, something that was a difference maker for the Comets as they kept the Cowboys at bay.
Frustol finished the night with 10 points and 8 rebounds. His presence diverted the Cowboys offensive strikes. Junior Sean McGuire joined Frustol in the paint, providing quality minutes and 10 points of his own to the Comet total.
As Tungseth worked to shoot the lights out in Hillcrest's gym, steady guard play from the Comets pushed the Cowboys back to their bench. The Cowboys regrouped, drawing defensive scheme after defensive scheme in an effort to stop Tungseth and keep the Comets from racking-up the score. The Cowboys focused their defensive traps around Tungseth and Newman, working to squelch the Comets' leading scorers. Tommy Thompson found himself open on the perimeter as a result. Thompson hit big shots in key moments, providing a quiet presence that stabilized a set of Comet offensive series. Thompson finished the night with 11 points.
Joining Thompson in a quiet but important role was Reggie Undseth. The Junior guard watched Tungseth draw two and three defenders at a time, opening holes in the defense that Undseth moved to, finding easy baskets that continued scoring streaks for the Comets. Undseth finished with 7 points.
Last ditch efforts by the Cowboys drained the score deficit to 10 with under two minutes to play. Hillcrest stayed the course, breaking the full-court press with strong dribbling and quick passes. The Cowboys worked to score quickly when given the chance; resetting in a zone in the final minutes. The defensive traps closed gaps as the Comets spread the floor. The gaps enabled the Cowboys to foul quickly in an effort to steal the ball or put the Comets at the free-throw line. Quick touch passes after the Comets broke the press opened layups as Hillcrest kept the Cowboys away with a 10 point difference, trading baskets in the final minutes. The clock ran out with Hillcrest playing the way they started the game, never opening the door for Breckenridge to assert themselves for a lead.
In post-game interviews Chris Tungseth praised his team. Social media posts celebrating the Senior's achievement in setting the single game scoring record were quickly followed with comments from Chris thanking God and acknowledging his teammates. The team's ball movement and transition offense provided Chris a host of scoring opportunities, which he took advantage of by shooting 65% from the floor and 83% from the free throw line.
Hillcrest takes their 91-78 non-conference win and stacks it on the shelf beside 14 others. They look forward to 2 more games this week as they continue their march to playoffs.