There’s something about Hillcrest that brings out the best in Ben Krystokowiak.
Earlier this season, the Olympus senior scored a season-high 19 points against the Huskies, and then in the rematch Friday night, Krystokowiak poured in a career-high 27 to lead his team to the 76-57 victory.
The win helped Olympus improve to 10-0 in Region 6 as it closes in another region title after its streak of five straight region crowns was snapped last season.
“It’s just our chemistry really. Everybody on our team, we’re all best friends, we get along really well. There’s times where we do get frustrated with each other in practice, but it’s always just making each other better. We’re just trying to take steps every day to get better and work together.”
Krystkowiak led Olympus in scoring last year at just 11.6 ppg, but this year with the emergence of junior big man Jack Wistrcill he’s taken on a secondary scoring role as the Titans have numerous more weapons offensively to spread the ball around to.
On Friday it was Krystkowiak’s turn to go off.
“The thing about Ben that’s been so great is he’s just a leader and he’s happy and does whatever. There’s a lot of games he has 10, 12 points, but he’s that glue for our team and leads by example and plays hard. His game is evolving and his confidence is growing at a good time,” said Olympus coach Matt Barnes.
Krystkowiak made four of Olympus’ nine 3-pointers — all in the first half — but the story of the first half was Hillcrest’s red-hot shooting from beyond the arc.
Hillcrest leading scorer Maddux Albers exited the game with a sprained ankle very early in the first quarter, but his teammates picked up the slack in the first half as 3-pointers accounted for all but seven of Hillcrest’s first half points.
“You’ve got to give them credit, they came to play and I knew the way coach (Brandon) Sluga coaches them they’re going to be up for the game and come aggressive and energetic, and they got it going early,” said Barnes.
Hillcrest was inevitably going to cool down in the second half, but Olympus’ switch to a zone defense at times played a role in that cooling off.
Olympus outscored Hillcrest 19-5 in the third quarter to pull away from Hillcrest, which made just one 3-pointer in the second half.
Willits finished the game with 16 points to lead Hillcrest, with Madry adding 14.
For Olympus, 6-foot-8 center Wistrcill scored 10 points in each half to finish with 20, with Luke Smith and Dayton Davis each chipping in with a dozen.
“Jack has been terrific all year. He’s got so much better and he’s a tough one-on-one cover,” said Barnes.
A subtle contributor in the box score on Friday was freshman starting point Jordan Barnes, the coach’s son who scored just three points — on a 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer to give his team the 41-40 lead.
Coach Barnes had no idea what role his son would play on the team this year, especially with limited opportunities to play with the older kids in summer because of COVID-19. He said his son has fit right in with the older players and has been very composed throughout the season.
“He’s won over his teammates and his teammates know how he can play and what he can do. He doesn’t score a lot, but he knows what we’re looking to do and gets the ball to where it needs to be. He’s got a good feel that way,” said Barnes.
Heading into Friday’s game he’d racked up 101 assists this year, and he added several more against Hillcrest getting the ball into the hot hands of Wistrcill and Krystkowiak.
In the driver’s seat for the Region 6 title, Olympus hosts second-place Brighton next Tuesday in a game that will have region title implications.