Preston Seals Game After Team Makes Decision From Bench
With eight minutes left in the first half Coach Gregg Preston asked his team a question. "They're gonna score 80 and you're going to have a hard time keeping up," coach Gregg Preston started. His team leaned into the huddle as Preston outlined a game plan to stem the tide of the Park Christian Falcons who held a 17-8 lead with eight minutes left in the first half when the Comets called their timeout. "Our defense will create our offense. What do you want to do?"
The Falcons came out of the huddle and hit a three-pointer after a Comet turnover. To start the next series Hillcrest passed 20 seconds off the clock, working to break down the Falcons' defense. Zak Zwiers spotted up for an open 18-foot jump shoot, putting the score at 20-10. The basket started Hillcrest in a full-court man-to-man press that forced the Falcons to cast an errant three point shot four feet behind the line. The miss sparked a Hillcrest 20-4 run, seeing the Comets dart to the locker room with a 28-24 lead with evidence that their defense could lead them to victory.
The Comet defense locked down on the Falcons in the second half. Eric Konynenbelt played the most minutes, switching substitution squads seamlessly as he bore down on the Falcon defenders. Zak Zwiers and Sander Frustol brought a towering presence under the basket, with Frustol pulling in his first double-double of the year with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
The Falcons worked their way back into the game, evening the score at 53 with one minute to play. The Comets called a time out, regrouping on their bench as fans created a playoff-like atmosphere led by cheerleaders from both schools. Gregg Preston looked to his team and asked them how they'd like to finish the game. A call from one player to settle in for one shot with the remaining minute on the clock was agreed upon by the team. Then, another team member said, "let's go after it". The Comets looked at each other and agreed. Gabe Preston looked down the bench to see Freshman Micah Foss who was entering the game. Reaching down the line of players, Preston said, "Don't be afraid to shoot." There was a vote of confidence for the Freshman point guard. The team roared in approval, giving encouragement and support that the team was unified whether they win or lose.
Hillcrest came out of the huddle. Preston dribbled as point guard, moving the ball up the court. The first pass he made was to Foss. The Comets worked the ball around for the next thirty seconds before Preston found a spot behind the arc off a soft screen from Foss, hitting a three pointer to put the Comets up 56-53 with thirty seconds left.
Preston would go on to seal the game, visiting the foul line twice as the Falcons looked for an errant pass or deflected ball in playing scappy defense. In Preston's two trips to the free throw line he hit two shots, giving Hillcrest an eventual 58-53 victory.
The most important delivery of the night was made in a huddle that gathered after regulation. The two teams linked arms shoulder-to-shoulder at half court where Comet coach Gregg Preston told the Falcons of the special prayer times the Comets have been in for their school. Noting a few obstacles the Falcons have overcome, Preston said that the most important thing that happened that night was having confidence in where each person would be when the final buzzer sounds marking the end of life. Preston pointed around the circle to note a few who have met that buzzer with friends and family. He then turned to Sam Ihrke, whose mother was cheering at Park Christian one year ago before passing away weeks later. Ihrke then offered a tear filled prayer on behalf of both teams, noting the special significance of having trust and confidence in a Savior who saves and grants life eternally.