This was a prime example of why the Hillcrest Hornets could be scary good again.
The Hornets, for the first time this season, clicked on all cylinders in downing Ozark 61-42 Tuesday night in their home opener at Hillcrest.
“I don’t think we’ve worked as team like that all season,” senior guard Austin Petry said. “We’ve worked all week on the extra pass, extra pass and that’s what you get.”
What the undersized-Hornets got was an onslaught of open-looks from beyond the arc and they took full advantage.
Hillcrest (4-1) — which starts five guards all under 6-foot-2 — made 11 of 15 three-point attempts in the first half to blow the game open early.
“I think if anyone knocks down 11 in the half, they’ll be real tough to beat,” Petry said with a laugh. “We are team full of shooters and that’s what we can do.
“We are mismatched in the post, but they are also mismatched guarding us.”
Ozark coach Steve Hunter agreed.
“That’s a game total (11 treys) for most teams,” Hunter said. “And it wasn’t just one guy, there were three guys with three in the game, I think.
“That’s what makes them hard to guard, because they are quick enough to beat you one on one and when you collapse they kick out.”
It was a matchup nightmare for the taller Tigers, who used their own size advantage to keep it within 20-17 after one quarter despite the Hornets’ six 3-pointers. Six different players made a trey in the first half for Hillcrest, including three straight for 6-foot-4 Darnell Green-Beckham that pushed a tie game to a 26-19 Hornets’ lead.
“That’s what we need to do to be good,” Hillcrest coach John Schaefer said. “I thought we started out defensively pretty poor, but as the shots started going in the defense got a little better.
“They’ve got bigs, but they are going to have guard us and that’s the advantage we have.”
A pair of 3-pointers by Roy Hardy and Brady Petry spurred Hillcrest on a 11-2 run to close out the first half and gave the Hornets a 42-25 lead at the break.
After trailing by as many as 24 early in the second half, Ozark went back to the inside game and was able to close the lead to 51-39 with 7:21 left. Tyler Clanton scored nine of his 11 points during the run, attacking the smaller Hornets inside.
“We tried to be too cute with it in the second quarter and didn’t go to the rack,” Hunter said. “You saw in the third quarter, the Clanton kid, we get the ball on the block and he scored, simple as that.
“We tried to be too much finesse in that second quarter.”
Hardy led a very balanced Hillcrest attack with 15 points and Austin Petry added 13, dodging some early foul trouble. Green-Beckham added 11 in what Schaefer called perhaps his best game in high school and four other players scored at least five points for the Hornets.
Brett Krisik, who came in averaging 19 points a game, scored 10 in the first half but netted only a free throw in the second half.
“I’m very happy with our performance,” Hardy said. “Our chemistry, we are finally getting around. This is the first (Class 5) team we’ve seen this year and it’s good to get the win.”
“Our goal was to deny the wings and pressure the guards and our defense played better tonight.”
Hillcrest plays McClellan (Little Rock) on Saturday in the Ozark Mountain Shootout in Branson. Ozark is host to Kickapoo on Friday.