DANVILLE — Two boys’ basketball coaches, in their first year at a new school, started their tenures Tuesday with victories.
The way the schedule is set in the 46th Topper Classic, either Schlarman’s Gary Tidwell or St. Thomas More’s Matt Kelley will earn a second win when the tournament resumes Friday.
Their programs play one another at 7:30 p.m.
Schlarman opened with a 67-50 triumph against Judah Christian. St. Thomas More topped Paris 63-56.
Hilltoppers start strong. Tidwell has 13 players in his program. Seven are freshmen. Two of the ninth-graders start.
It didn’t slow the team down. Schlarman built a 16-5 lead after one quarter and never led by less than eight points thereafter.
“We played hard, with a lot of confidence, and were consistent throughout the game,” Tidwell said. “For a first game, the players did a great job.”
Senior Austin Calhoun led the way with 27 points, including the team’s final nine in the opening period.
“He is quick and scrappy and finished well tonight,” Tidwell said. “He plays taller than he is (6 foot). He elevates well.”
Senior Andrew Kelley had 13 points and junior Chris Kuchefski matched points and rebounds with 10 apiece for the Hilltoppers.
“They’re veterans and have been through this before,” Tidwell said. “Every coach wants to win, and in order to do that, you have to compete, play hard and focus on improvement.”
Both freshman starters — Michael Simmons and Gannon Hughes — made at least one three-pointer. Hughes had all eight of his points in the second half.
“They certainly didn’t play like freshmen,” Tidwell said. “Michael did a nice job handling the ball and making passes, and both are very receptive and eager to learn.”
Judah Christian was led by Ethan Chitty with 17 points. Myles Roosevelt scored 10 points, and Nick Berger grabbed nine rebounds.
“We showed a lot of nervous first-game jitters and some indecision,” Judah coach Mike Chitty said. “Schlarman beat us in every way. It was a disappointing way to start, but we will make some adjustments and move on.”
Sabers solid overall. St. Thomas More did all of the things necessary to make Kelley’s debut a successful one.
The Sabers had almost half the number of turnovers they forced. Every starter scored in double figures, and the team was 6 for 6 from the free throw line in the final minute.
“These kids are making it very easy for me,” said Kelley, a former Bloomington Central Catholic assistant. “This is a tough-minded group, and they’ve responded well. They don’t care who gets the credit.
“This group is very unselfish, and when you put that together you can accomplish some things.”
Joshua Koerner had a team-high 14 points for STM in the season opener. Kyler Jones and Michael Plecki each hit 13 points. Kevin Carroll had 11 points and Storm Joop 10.
A nine-point second-quarter lead for the Sabers evolved into a halftime tie, 26-26. STM scored nine of the first 11 second-half points — including a three-pointer by Carroll — and the Tigers never again pulled closer than five points.
“For the first night out, it was a lot of fun,” Kelley said. “They’re mentally strong. I’m glad to get the first one out of the way early, but it wouldn’t have happened without the kids.”
Carroll had seven rebounds and Koerner six for the Sabers.
Both schools made 23 field goals, but St. Thomas More outscored Paris 15-2 from the free throw line to nail down the victory.