JOHNSBURG – Ben Ahmer and Huntley knew how to start a season.
The senior scored 17 points, and the Red Raiders never trailed in their season opener against Grayslake North, a 65-35 win Monday night.
“We got off to a nice start; we knocked down some open looks,” Huntley coach Will Benson said. “Defense set the tone.”
Huntley took control of the opening game of the Johnsburg/Richmond-Burton Thanksgiving Tournament right from the start, running out to a 16-2 lead. The Red Raiders ran their offense, setting screens and finding open looks in the post and from 3-point range.
The Red Raiders led, 22-10, after the first quarter and stalled in the second quarter when Benson tried to get some one-on-one matchups. Once Huntley returned to running its sets, the Red Raiders’ offense continued to move again and they led, 37-16, at the half. Huntley never led by less than 20 the rest of the game.
“I think we were just patient,” Ahmer said. “We’ve been working really hard. We have a good defense, like seeing a defense not as good as ours, we got a lot of open looks that way.”
All of Huntley’s starters scored, with Nathan Ayr adding 13 points and John Kramer scoring nine points. Adam Guazzo finished with four points and seven rebounds.
Sharing the wealth was the key for the Huntley offense. The Knights couldn’t focus on one or two players to isolate on defense, leading to a wide range of shots for Red Raiders players throughout the game.
“When we share the ball, we can be pretty tough,” Benson said. “We’re fortunate to have some guys who can do some stuff offensively.”
Dominic Jankowski led the way for Grayslake North with 12 points, and Vittorio Vizzini added 10 points.
The Knights brought back three returning starters this season and some inexperience on the bench. Grayslake North coach Josh Feinzimer said his team took on a talented opponent to start the season and wants his players to learn and grow from the experience with a whole season left to go.
“They ran their stuff really well, and we didn’t execute our stuff,” Feinzimer said. “I’m just going to charge the guys to be patient, and we’ll get better from here.”
Grayslake North will take on Geneva on Tuesday in the second day of the tournament, while Huntley will play Johnsburg.
Benson knows the Skyhawks like to run a fast offense and will feature some Division I talent, which will be a good challenge for a defense that locked down the Knights in their first test of the season.
Although it’s nice to start the season with a big win, the Red Raiders know there’s a long way to go.
“We want to build from this,” Ahmer said. “We want to keep the momentum going.”