Hillcrest leapt into an eight point run to start the second half, pulling away from the Rothsay Tigers in a fierce conference battle Friday night. The push in the second half helped Hillcrest coast into a victory in the final minutes as Hillcrest emerges from a tough week of Basketball after the Christmas holiday.
The quick sprint for the Comets into their locker room was done underneath a scoreboard that showed a 22-20 halftime lead for the Comets. Tough defense earned Hillcrest the lead, but the Rothsay Tigers showed the Comets they were there to play, sticking out their own defensive stands to hold the Comets to 22 points behind an athletic effort that locked down the Comet post game with a solid zone defense.
Emerging from a half time pep-talk, Hillcrest made adjustments and started hitting big shots. The Comets went on an 8-0 run to start the second half, moving the ball quickly around the perimeter while making back door cuts behind the Tigers' zone defense for contested layups. The Tigers called a time out to reset, making a strong plan to be more aggressive on defense and attack the Comets on offense.
Coming out of the huddle, Rothsay came back at Hillcrest. The game plan drawn by Taylor Fuhs on the clipboard whiteboard had Rothsay dismantle the front court defense of Hillcrest to open midrange shots for the Tigers. Rothsay made a come back that had Hillcrest fans nervous as Comet coach Gregg Preston regrouped his team.
Two big shots by Eric Konynenbelt and Gabe Preston in the final three minutes of the game placed pegs for the the Comets to use in climbing out from the hole Rothsay dug for their opponents. Going into the final minute, Hillcrest stood with a two point lead over Rothsay, who fouled to put Hillcrest at the line to demand the Comets win the game with free throws.
Senior Sam Ihrke stepped to the line two consecutive times, putting up four straight free throws that pushed Hillcrest out of reach from Rothsay's mid-range game plan in the final seconds. When the buzzer sounded, Hillcrest and Rothsay shook hands at mid-court while Comet fans formed a tunnel that reached from the Comet locker room to the Comet bench. When the Comet players started their sprint down the row of fans it was a strong statement of the Comets being decisively over .500 with their 45-39 victory over the Tigers. It was a win that Hillcrest needed over an athletic team after a slow start in the new year.
The Comets were led by Eric Konynenbelt, who has come to hold a prominent place on the squad that was filled with senior leadership last year. Konynenbelt ended the game with 14 points and 2 assists, joining fellow senior Sam Ihrke in double digits, where Ihrke scored 10 points with 3 rebounds and 2 assists. Juniors Gabe Preston and Sander Frustol put in complete games in the stat line, with Preston earning 8 points, 4 assists, and 3 rebounds alongside Sander Frutol's 5 points, 13 rebounds, and 2 assists.
The Comets step up to face the West Central Area on Tuesday at home.