In nearly thirty years of coaching Gregg Preston has not only impacted lives but started deep enjoyment in growing in the Lord using Basketball. That was evident in what is being talked about as an annual tournament of Comet alumni basketball players gathering during the Christmas vacation. It was dubbed the Comet Classic, and brought in more than thirty alumni to watch and play basketball during Hillcrest’s Christmas vacation.
There was more talking than game planning before the games on December 28 and 29 inside the Comet gym. Players from Hillcrest’s 2000 second place in state team gathered with the 2001 third place team. Conversations didn’t center on Basketball or the old days. Discussions centered with how kids are doing and what is new in the workplace. Younger alumni shared how college is going, what campus ministries they’re involved in, and some of the challenging things that are happening on their campus. But when the laces tightened the focus shifted to a game the 30+ alumni who gathered knew by heart, instructed by Coach Preston to approach the court with special attention.
Players from the mid-2000s stormed the court first. Daniel Nersten joined up with Micah Jones in a flashback game where the Comet varsity team shook off the memories of watching the tandem. The current varsity squad found great competition in the Comets of yesteryear. They worked to break down defense that was smothering and aggressive, the kind that has been a staple of Hillcrest basketball for more than three decades.
The late game on Friday night was controlled by the early 2000s, with Daniel Berge and Ryan Garvin teaming up with JP Stender and Nate Jensen. One of the players Coach Preston first mentored, Evan Newman, joined the team to bolster the roster. The older decades showed why they earned bids to the state tournament, playing defense like they were in high school while shouting out commands to teammates. The Berge/Garvin tandem faced-off against Daniel Tungseth, Kyler Newman, and Andy Stender. To match the quickness of guys ten years their junior, they employed more recent Comets in Sean McGuire, Zak Zwiers, Daniel Preston, Sam Isaac, and Sam Ihrke.
Saturday morning offered two games for each squad in the round robin tournament. After the first two games the President's office provided a sandwich lunch for spectators and players, adding to the excitement of being Comets watching favorite players from decades past.
The oldest group of players, those from the early 2000s with Evan Newman, won all their games, winning the first Comet Classic. A number of the older players celebrated the idea of coming back to Hillcrest to play basketball. Many drew comparisons to the formative years of the Hillcrest Invitational Tournament (HIT), when church teams around the area would unite to play in a formal tournament against the Hillcrest varsity squad.
Parents commented on the joy of watching brothers from different years play together again. One parent mentioned how fun it was to watch Comet teams spanning three decades play seamlessly together. It was a testament to a Coach who has taught Hillcrest players to love the game of basketball and celebrate the way God uses it to unite and inspire players and fans alike.