Former Comets are liking the throwback look of the games Hillcrest is battling out on the court lately. In their home opener, the Comets smothered Brandon-Evansville, going on a 19-5 run to open the game as the athletic Chargers went to the bench in timeout after timeout to figure out how to break the Comets' defense. The second half held a different story for the Chargers.
After the starting five were announced, 6'7" Sander Frustol pelted the opening tip past a teammate. The Chargers collected the ball, executed a nice pick-and-roll, and found a wall of Comets that shut them down. This would be the scene for the next six minutes of the game. Hillcrest would challenge the ball at half-court, Comet defenders on the wing would shut down passing lanes and subsequently slow the game down. The Chargers would dribble into the key and have the ball deflected, stolen, and would watch Hillcrest setup a transition game that had the Chargers sitting and waiting. The Comets have patience on offense, and are completely impatient on defense.
Hillcrest would take their defensive energy and channel it to offensive force. When the ball wasn't being shot from Zak Zwiers inside the box, it was in Sander Frustol's hands in the low block. Hillcrest's high-low offense had their posts setting screens in a perpetual state of motion that brought Frustol 13 points in the first half.
Frustol found Eric Konynenbelt and Gabe Preston behind the line as the defense collapsed to stop the Comet forward. Konynenbelt made a strong statement to open scoring for Hillcrest with a three-pointer, his only bucket of the game while he earned a team high 4 assists. Preston would hit two threes in the first half, scoring 15 points, all in field goals.
With the Chargers switching up their defense to stop Frustol, the Comet forward stepped outside of the arc, hitting two three pointers within the Comets first 19 points as they wore down the Chargers before the second half began.
The Chargers exited the locker room with a sense of determination to start the second half. They would go on a 13-0 run, where Hillcrest found themselves on their heels on defense with a lid on the basket for offense. With the Comet let cut to three, 32-29, Coach Preston settled his team to slow down their offensive series and change their approach on defense. Brent Ferenczy was key in the Comet refocus in the second half, adding two points in his time, but providing a presence on defense.
The Comets swapped out big man Zak Zwiers for a ball handling front, putting Nick Foss and Sam Ihrke into the mix with Hillcrest pulling four guards out to the perimeter as the Chargers started fouling to close the game. Foss had 3 points on the night, all from the free throw line as he filled his role for the Comets. Sam Ihrke hit a pair of important free throws, keeping the Comet lead in tact as he finished with 6 points on the night.
Overall the Chargers were shutdown by Comet defense. At times it looked like the Chargers wanted to board the bus and head home, struggling to find open passing lanes as they turned the ball over 15 times. Hillcrest's intensity on defense stopped on a dime when the ball crossed half-court and they entered an offensive mode. Their patience in getting good looks at the basket had them turn the ball over only 8 times in the 32 minutes of play.
Hillcrest takes their second win of the season, the 50-43 battle against Brandon-Evansville, to Ashby on Thursday, the final game before a handful of Comets venture home for two-weeks to celebrate Christmas.