RIVERSIDE — Highland had to test the water with five new starters in the season opener against Harmony.
All five players passed their first test in a 77-42 torching, Monday.
The new group of starters was highlighted by the debut of Lone Tree transfer Chris Ford. The senior guard led the team in three statistical categories.
“Coach told me I had to step up and I had no problem taking the lead,” Ford said.
He had a team-high 18 points, seven free throw attempts and five assists. He was one rebound away from a double-double.
This game had been building for a year for Ford, who had to play junior varsity last year due to transfer restrictions.
“It felt good,” Ford said. “I’ve been waiting a long time. I had a good time playing. I have got to know these guys pretty well. Freshman and sophomore year I had to watch. Three years of watching and (now) you get to unleash what you have learned.”
He played with a purpose, as he had the first five points of the game and nearly had two and-1s out of the gate.
“Chris Ford did a great job early on attacking the basket,” said head coach Marcus Hall. “He created for himself or drawing multiple defenders to find people.”
Highland opened up a 16-2 lead in the first quarter.
Ford dished to senior Jake Michel for a 31-11 advantage in the second quarter.
Harmony got in the bonus with 6:48 left in the second quarter, but was unable to do damage from the line.
Junior Jesse Wollrab scored a layup as time expired in the first half to extend the lead to 51-18.
“Jesse does a nice job of controlling things for us,” Hall said. “He is mentally always in the game.”
The final score was the biggest margin of the game at 35 points.
“We did some things on offense,” Hall said. “We kept the game simple. We accomplished what we wanted to accomplish, in that we saw the glaring weaknesses.”
Hall said there was enough awareness on defense, and an increase in level of play could put them behind in the game.
The Huskies had balanced scoring with four players hitting double digits. Michel had 15 points on 7-for-12 shooting, sophomore Nick Sandburg had 12 points and freshman Trent Lasek had 10 points.
“(Lasek) is mature for his age — he is only 14 years old,” Hall said. “I told him to approach like it was eighth-grade game last year. He had a nice touch around the rim.”
Senior Colin Sexton led the team in rebounding with 13, and Michel had 11 boards.
“Nick Sandburg did a nice job on the boards; same goes for Sexton and Michel,” Hall said. “Colin played one of his best games as a Highland basketball player, tonight.”
Lasek was tied for the team lead with five assists.
Sandburg led the team with two blocks.
The Huskies shot 53.4 percent from the floor.
Highland hosts Iowa Mennonite School, Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.
“It is good to have a game to get the nerves and kinks out,” Ford said. “Find out where you struggled, so that you can fix it before the next game.”