In a battle for Cascades Conference supremacy, the Napoleon High School boys basketball team put Hanover-Horton in an early headlock the Comets couldn’t quite wiggle out of Thursday night.
The Pirates pulled out to a double-digit lead early in the second half, and Hanover-Horton could not find its trademark offensive power as Napoleon won 56-48 in an early showdown of unbeatens.
Napoleon (6-0, 3-0) remained tied with East Jackson for the Cascades Conference lead, and Hanover-Horton (6-1, 2-1) dropped a game back.
Hanover-Horton came in averaging 71 points a game, but Napoleon rarely missed a defensive assignment or switch, and Hanover-Horton grew increasingly frustrated as a number of shots simply rolled off the rim.
Senior guard Keith Wood controlled the tempo for the Pirates with 13 points and five assists, but he said it was forwards Heath Sullivan and Dalton Bycraft holding their own with the Comets big men all night and smart perimeter defense that paid off.
“Our defense was great,” Wood said. “We are so satisfied with our defense. They didn’t score that much, and we kept the game slow a lot of the time. I’m just so proud of all our guys and how they played.”
The Comets showed life early on, jumping to a 12-11 lead after one quarter. But the Pirates continued to clog the lanes and make life difficult for the Comets.
A series of big defensive stops turned into a 13-2 run, and a five-minute scoring drought had Hanover-Horton coach Chad Mortimer shaking his head with his team down 24-16 at halftime.
“I don’t know what to say, to be honest,” Mortimer said afterward. “This is a rivalry game, this is with a league title up for grabs, and we came out like that? I just don’t have any answers.”
Hanover-Horton’s Sam Spink led all scorers with 17 points. Tyler Hull added 11 points and Dylan Schuette had eight returning to action after missing a game with an injury.
“They bought into (our defense),” Napoleon coach Jim Dutton said. “And I think boxing out was really a key. We missed a few assignments, but we did a better job than we have been, and we were making a lot of contact.”
Offensively it was a team effort as well, with the Pirates doling out 16 assists and three players scoring in double figures.
Sullivan tallied 16 points and eight rebounds, while Tyler Piotrowski pitched in 11 points.
Dutton said he was pleased with how well his team moved the basketball and waited for the “right shot,” and he believes great team chemistry is what has the Pirates firing on all cylinders right now.
Not much went right for the Comets after the first quarter, but they made Napoleon fans sweat in the final minutes.
Trailing by 12 with 1:47 remaining, Hanover-Horton trimmed the lead to just four with 48.9 seconds left following 3-pointers by Spink and Hull.
It wasn’t enough, though, and Mortimer said Napoleon deserved credit because “they came out ready for a big game and we didn’t.”
“We didn’t defend well, they beat us on the boards pretty good … it was a goofy game, and we couldn’t hang onto the ball, we couldn’t make shots.”