LAUREL HILL — All systems are go as Laurel Hill's boys basketball team prepares for the upcoming District 1-1A tournament early next month at Bethlehem.
The Hoboes are playing their best basketball of the season, everything is coming together and Coach Kent Zessin is excited about what he sees.
"I really like the way we are playing the second half of the season. Every coach's goal is to have his team playing their best at the end of the year. We are starting to come together as a team.
"I think each and every one of my players has stepped up and gotten better since day one. Our defensive game has really stepped up lately. I'm impressed with the way we are getting after the ball, and that only makes our offense better."
Laurel Hill was at its offensive and defensive best Tuesday night as they rolled to a 59-26 win over the Bethlehem Wildcats in district play. Most of the second half was played with a running clock after the Hoboes (15-4, 8-2) went up 35 points with 4:21 left in the third quarter.
Senior post player Lane Strickland led the way with 16 points, eight rebounds and six blocks.
Strickland's play on the inside opened things up for the other Hoboes.
"Lane is 6-6 and long," Zessin said "They had to drop down (and put extra players on Strickland) and take coverage away from our shooters," and our shooters are shooting the ball pretty well right now."
When the Wildcats dropped down to cover Strickland, the Hobo shooters did make them pay.
Bryson Cooper finished the night with 12 points. Tee Calloway added 10 points. And Chris Saylor was lights out from beyond the arch, scoring nine on three 3-pointers.
Strickland wasted no time making his presence known as he scored six points in the first quarter.
But Strickland was far from a one-man show.
Bryson Cooper scored five points in the first quarter. Calloway chipped in four and Josh Hartzog had two points as the Hoboes led 17-14 at the end of the first quarter.
Laurel Hill put the game away early in the second quarter with a 12-0 run that pushed the Hobo lead to 29-14. Laurel Hill outscored Bethlehem 26-4 in the second quarter, pushing the lead to 43-18 at the half.
Ten straight points by Laurel Hill to start the second half stretched the Hobo lead to 53-18 and kicked in the running clock.
With the big lead and the game in hand, Zessin just wanted the Hoboes to play well down the stretch.
"When we are playing teams and we are up so big, we just want to make sure we are executing to perfection," he said. "You just don't want to get sloppy, especially this time of year. I didn't see a lot of that (Tuesday). I thought we stayed focused, and that's all you can ask for."
Randy Dickson is the Crestview News Bulletin’s sports editor. Email him at email@example.com, tweet him @BigRandle, or call 682-6524.