Indians shackle Bucs in NIC-10 opener

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Josh Flickinger/Beloit Daily News Hononoegah's Nick Pierson reaches for a steal against Belvidere in the Indians' win Wednesday.

ROCKTON - An inexperienced team will often produce inconsistent results.

Sometimes, as the Hononegah boys proved Wednesday nights, that mixed bag can even appear within the same game.

The Indians overcame a sluggish first half to pound Belvidere 60-33 in the NIC-10 opener for both teams.

Hononegah, playing with just a few players with extensive varsity experience, allowed just nine points in the second half while having little trouble finding the basket themselves.

The Indians got strong inside play from Nick Pierson (11 points) and hit 10 3-pointers to earn the victory. Junior Chris Akelaitis led the team with 16 points, including five treys, while Drew Grygiel added 12 points on four 3-pointers.

Hononegah coach Mike Miller was pleased with the way his 4-1 team has played thus far.

"What I'm happy about is that, for a bunch of new guys, they took what we said at halftime and put into practice on the floor," Miller said. "We talked about the first half Nick not getting a lot of touches. In the second half he did get a lot of touches, and even when he wasn't scoring, he was kicking it out for open looks for our shooters.

"We also had a defensive group out there that Belvidere should've had a hard time scoring against, and they went almost five minutes without a basket. That's what winning teams do. It was a really nice finish to the game."

Belvidere would make just two shots from the field in the entire second half, and two players combined for 26 of their 32 points.

Akelaitis said the team is gelling better, game by game.

"I think when we really play as a team, we get to get out and run more, get good shots from outside and get Nick the ball in the middle," Akelaitis said. "I think everybody just trusts each other to make shots. We've got a lot of shooters, and we all trust Nick inside."

Pierson said the team adjusted to the pace and eventually played the game the way they wanted to.

"They came out and played in a way we didn't really expect," Pierson said. "We had to adapt to that. After we talked at halftime, we were able to solve the problems and we just went out and executed."

At times, the Indians offense plays through Pierson in the middle, with the senior either driving hard to the basket, or dishing to his shooters.

"It's an amazing offense to play in," Pierson said. "I know that if I have to score, I can do that, but I can also pass out to some really good shooters. I can't mess up, unless I actually just hand the other team the ball. There's always going to be good options to go to."

Pierson said his team, which is considered a longshot to repeat last year's 20-win campaign that left them third in the NIC-10, is going to raise some eyebrows around the area this season.

"We are definitely going to surprise some people," Pierson said. "I think people might just dismiss us as scrawny little white boys, but then people are going to see that we can attack any team from any angle. Everybody is sleeping on that right now."

Miller said his team's ability to be versatile is a significant asset.

"There are times when we are going to put four or five guys on the floor at a time that can all hit the three," Miller said. "And what's interesting with us is we've got shooter lineups, we've got quickness lineups, we've got some size lineups. There's a lot of good things we can do, and it was nice to finish out tonight's game the way we did."

The Indians will host a team that will present many more problems than the Bucs did when they face Rockford Auburn Friday night.

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