The kinks are out for the Highland boys basketball team.
The Hawks struggled in the season-opening Fear the Hop tournament last week at Mesa High, but the start of the power points schedule on Tuesday night went much better.
Small forward Jake Toolson had 21 points and eight assists as Highland knocked off No. 8 Red Mountain, 69-56, in Division I action at Highland.
The Hawks are 3-2 on the year after losing to Corona del Sol and Hamilton in the tournament, but begin 1-0 in games that count toward the postseason. Highland finished just outside the top-24 last year and already has a quality win for its resume with the defeat of the Mountain Lions.
“I’m glad we had this in the beginning of the year, because in the middle it would have been bad to have these struggles,” Toolson said. “We know we’re not going to be perfect, but we learned from that tournament and we played our best game of the year so far today.”
The Hawks led by two points at halftime, and pushed it to five at the end of three quarters. Red Mountain cut the deficit to one point when Derek Rojas hit back-to-back 3-pointers early in the fourth, but Highland eventually pulled away.
Austin Witherill had nine of his 18 points in the fourth, including a crucial 3-pointer which pushed the lead to 55-47 with 4:45 remaining. Witherill transferred from Mountain Pointe to Highland in the offseason and gives the Hawks another offensive weapon next to Toolson.
“It takes a lot of pressure off me because he can knock down shots and create his own shot,” Toolson said. “It makes the offense better.”
Bryce Farabee hit a pair of early 3-pointers and added 10 points for Highland, something which pleased coach Derrick Donaldson.
“We’re trying to get it to where it’s not just one or two guys but the whole team, so you’ve got to play all five of us instead of just one,” Donaldson said.
Red Mountain (5-1) won the Salpointe Tip-Off Classic last week but after a hot-shooting first quarter struggled at times to sink open looks. Travis Meeker led the way with 15 points, while Rojas and Brian Smith had 11 apiece.