DIXON – Russ Damhoff was in full experimentation mode Friday night, and for the most part, he liked what he saw.
Damhoff, who is entering his 28th season as the men's basketball coach at Sauk Valley Community College, sent wave after wave of players into the game during Friday's season opener against Prairie State. The Skyhawks overcame a slow start and pulled away for an 80-68 victory over Pioneers.
All but one SVCC player who dressed saw significant court time, and all but one scored at least one basket.
"You can see our talent," Damhoff said. "It's there, but we have a ways to go."
The Sauk Valley backcourt was especially productive, as sophomore point guard Carlos Hendrix and freshman shooting guard Jacoby Posley combined for 33 points. Hendrix finished with 17 points, eight assists and two rebounds, while Posley contributed 16 points, four steals and two boards.
"Carlos is the key for us," Damhoff said. "He's got to be good. He got a little fancy toward the end, but for 35 minutes he was pretty good. Jacoby, he's a pretty good freshman. He hit some big shots for us to kind of keep the gap there. Those two guys can be pretty good, and we've got some depth."
Posley, the latest in a line of strong guards from Winnebago, was happy with the way he meshed with Hendrix.
"It's amazing playing with Carlos," Posley said. "He's a sophomore, a returner from last year, so he has a lot of experience, and he can help you on what you need to do. He's a good captain to have."
The Skyhawks spotted Prairie State an 8-0 lead, with freshman guard Rodney Smith opening the game with a pair of 3-pointers, but it was all Sauk Valley after that.
A basket from sophomore forward John Murphy put SVCC ahead 13-12 with 12 minutes, 36 seconds remaining in the first half, and the Skyhawks didn't trail the rest of the way.
The margin grew to 15 points (45-30) by halftime, and it was 18 (54-36) after a basket from sophomore forward Chris Fritsch with 14:40 left in the second half.
Prairie State sliced it to 10 points at 61-51 with just under 10 minutes to go, forcing Damhoff to call a timeout. Jacob Fisher, a sophomore from Princeton, then drained a pair of 3-pointers to up the margin back to 16 points, and the Skyhawks were never in danger the rest of the way.
Fritsch and Murphy each scored nine points for SVCC, and Murphy also corralled 14 rebounds. Fisher finished with eight points, while Tramel Rideout added seven points and seven boards.
The Skyhawks committed 20 turnovers, and were just 12-for-29 from the free-throw line, but made up for those shortcomings with a sticky zone defense that forced Prairie State into a 24-for-66 shooting night.
"I thought overall [our zone defense] was pretty good," Damhoff said. "They were going four out, and that's a little hard to cover in a zone. I thought we did a pretty job of that for the first game."
Joe Hughes, a 6-5 sophomore and the Pioneers' lone inside threat, finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds to lead his squad. Sherman Carter added 12 points and four boards.
Prairie State vs. St. Ambrose JV, 5:30 p.m.
Milwaukee Tech vs. Sauk, 7:30 p.m.