HUNTINGTON — Huntington North Vikings knew about Homestead's Caleb Swanigan. They knew he was one of the best big men not just in the area, but the country.
They didn't care.
Huntington North (1-0) shot lights out over Swanigan and Homestead's (0-1) height inside won 69-53 to open the season.
“Kids stayed within themselves tonight,” Huntington North head coach Rob Irwin said. “Sometimes got a little out of kilter, but stayed within what we wanted to do. Guys were just staying patient and defensively, too, we kept them off kilter.”
Swanigan may have scored 25 points to lead all scorers with 11 rebounds and four turnovers, but he wasn't enough to overcome the Vikings shooting 64.7 percent from three-point range. The Vikings shot 50 percent from the field for the game as they made 11 three-pointers.
“I mean, we couldn't have asked for a better start,” Irwin said. “We shot the ball really well. Came in at halftime, thought we were fortunate shooting the ball and then third quarter came out shooting well again.”
This was led by Keaton Irwin, who hit five threes as he scored 22 points to lead Huntington North, and Kyle Platt was perfect from deep hitting all four threes to score 20 points. The guards routinely found their way around screens to put the Vikings up early and keep them there.
“We haven't had a kid work as hard as (Keaton Irwin) has to get himself where he can play,” Irwin said. “He didn't play in middleschool and was fat and overweight and decided he wanted to play, and that's his hard work paying off tonight. For the most part, he stayed within himself. He didn't try to do anything he couldn't do, and if he shoots the ball like that we're going to be good this year.”
For Huntington North, the domination got started early as Homestead struggled to get good possessions at the beginning of the game. The Vikings opened the game on 11-0 and 21-3 runs. They used various zones including a box-and-one and full-court press tochallenge the Spartans. Homestead only had one shot attempt on its first six possessions, and it finished the game with 12 turnovers, eight in the first half.
“We just wanted to make sure we had pressure on the ball so it wasn't easy throwing it down low (to Swanigan),” Irwin said. “Just kept coming at them and hopefully (Swanigan) is the guy who had to come out to relieve pressure.”
Homestead left the game with plenty of questions about its team. Without an experienced guard returning, it struggled to find shooting and players surrounding Swanigan. It's an issue head coach Chris Johnson is certainly concerned about.
“We just don't have that type of quickness out there to be able to create,” Johnson said. “We don't have Nick Gamble anymore who can get up in people and get a quick steal.”
It also didn't help that Homestead was without senior Joe Ault in the game, who did not dress for personal reasons Johnson said. Still, for the Spartans to be competitive they need their guards to grow up in a hurry.
“They took us out of everything we wanted to do,” Johnson said. “We have two big guys and (Huntington North) came out and got hot and we get down 13 to zero and it's awful tough to come back from that. …With our guards, we have to figure out what varsity basketball is and tonight Huntington North took it to us.”