Kyler Newman's street clothes replaced his Hillcrest uniform as he rested and watched his team grit out a hard fought game against Ashby last night. With Newman sitting next to the coaches for the game, Hillcrest looked down the bench and saw a number rise to the occasion despite surprisingly falling cold from the floor in shooting a mere 36%. Hillcrest relied on hard work and their defense in battling to a 55-43 victory.
Senior Tommy Thompson filled in for Newman in attacking the rim. Thompson fought through defenders and sliced his way to the rim numerous times in the first half. Ashby's man defense stepped in late on a number of occasions, bumping Thompson who worked to step of over kneecaps as he chinned the ball in working for a layup.
With Thompson streaking to the rim Hillcrest crashed the boards throughout the night. Senior Daniel Preston boxed out opponents, opening lanes for team mates to find rebounds, while pulling down five for himself. But the Comets ability to grab boards didn't seem to aid in their point total. On nearly every possession the Comets were able to gather a second try from their own miss, but the rim was a rock for Hillcrest. Nothing was falling.
Finding their offensive side of the court bitterly cold, Hillcrest looked to their defense to steady the scoring. Starting out in a 3/4 court man defense, Hillcrest shifted to a 1-2-2 trap to try to generate some transition points. Locking their defense in helped Hillcrest enter the locker room up 8 points after Senior Sean McGuire knocked down a 3 pointer as time expired.
The Comets came out of the locker room looking to close out the game. McGuire stepped in more as the second half started, working to control the game with Thompson and Reggie Undseth as they stifled the Arrows who were starting to look winded.
Hillcrest took a 20 point lead well into the second half off a Sam Ihrke layup. The starters watched as Hillcrest's bench continued the assault on Ashby on defense, wearing down the Arrows to open cutting lanes for the Comets on offense. The bench pitched in 19 points, proving to be the difference for Hillcrest as the Arrows slowed in the waning minutes.
With time expiring Eric Konynenbelt settled the bench players who were on the court. Konynenbelt finished the game with 6 points as Gabe Preston walked to midcourt to high five his teammate after earning the same total. Ihrke put in solid minutes after watching the starters set the tone in the game. His defensive hustle carried over to the offense where he worked for rebounds and set screens to open opportunities for teammates. Ihrke finished with 4 points from the bench.
McGuire and Thompson rested their legs in the final minutes as they prepare to take on #2 ranked Red Lake on Saturday. McGuire pushed the Comets over the edge with his 19 points in timely shooting three 3-pointers throughout the game. Thompson filled in the role for the missing Newman with a tenacious effort, contributing 14 points on an uncharacteristically cold night from the field.
Hillcrest will play in the Tip-off Classic at Hopkins Saturday vs. rival Red Lake at 2pm.