The scoring started early as the Hornets capitalized on a missed Thomas Nelson 3-point attempt with Hillcrest’s Austin Petry (11 points, 1 assist and a steal) connecting on a long pass to Juwan Johnson (5 points, 1 assist) for a quick two point lay-in.
The senior guard’s back-to-back three pointers proved to be a preview of the night’s action, as he was joined on the scoring ledger with two more by classmate Thomas Whitaker and single 3-point buckets by Roy Hardy and Darnell Green-Beckham in a 20-point first quarter.
“I wasn’t surprised at all,” said Hardy (15 points, four rebounds and two steals) of the Hornets' perimeter shooting, “In practice, coach gives us the green light and when you have that faith coming from your coach it’s easy to put out from the floor.”
Coming off the bench, Green-Beckham (11 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist and a steal) drained two more 3-pointers in a pivotal second quarter where Hillcrest outscored Ozark 22-8 by taking advantage of numerous Tiger turnovers.
“We got too cute with it and didn’t go to the rack,” Hunter said of his squad’s turnover problems in the second.
The Tigers began the third quarter without the services of big man Brett Kisic, who lead Ozark in scoring at the first half with 10 but only added one free-throw in the second half. He was equaled in points by guard Tyler Clanton with 11 points after only scoring two in the second quarter.
“We wanted to be the aggressor,” said Hillcrest coach John Schaefer. “That’s what we do: we shoot it. Our biggest guy on the floor as a starter is 6’2 and all five of our guys on the court are capable of knocking down 3s."
Hillcrest moves to 4-1 on the season and will face Little Rock McClelland (Ark.) at Branson’s Ozark Mountain Shootout on Saturday, Dec. 15. Ozark sits at 3-3 and will face Kickapoo Friday, Dec. 14.