ELKHART — Northridge boys basketball player Sam Smith heard the chants when he went to the free-throw line in the first quarter of Tuesday's game against Elkhart Central.
The Blue Blazer student section kept chanting, "Hank is better", referring to Sam's brother, who was a standout basketball player at Elkhart Memorial that graduated last year.
Sam responded with 20 points, with 15 of those in the first half, in a 64-37 Raiders win over the Blue Blazers at North Side Gym. The game was the season-opener for both teams.
Smith's shooting in the first half helped Northridge take a commanding 30-12 lead at halftime.
"I think he probably was motivated," said Northridge coach Scott Radeker about the impact the chants had on Smith. "Sam wants to redeem himself from last year. I don't think he thought he played very well here last year, especially during the regular season. He came out tonight and was confident. If you give him a foot he's going to burn you and knock down shots."
Smith finished with four of the team's 13 treys. Carter Stoltzfus had a team-high five 3-pointers and Camden Knepp totaled three. Stoltzfus scored 13 of his 21 points in the third quarter and Knepp had 12 points.
"That's about how I thought we would shoot the ball," Radeker said. "We lost some good 3-pointers from last year, but we also had five or six good shooters coming back. We're going to be able to do that to teams. What makes it tough is that you have Stauffer inside and if you want to try to double him I'm not sure who you're going to leave to double. Stauffer also does a great job of passing the ball out of the post and seeing people on the perimeter."
Northridge was able to compensate for the loss of Stauffer, who sat on the bench at times because of foul trouble. He picked up his second foul a little over two minutes into the game. Less than a minute into the third quarter, Stauffer was called for his third foul. On the court, Stauffer, who averaged 12 points a game last year, finished with eight points and nine rebounds.
"It was a 27-point game, but there still was quite a bit of adversity that we had to deal with," Radeker said. "We had our big man (Stauffer) in foul trouble sitting on the bench and we had a kid get sick (Drew Gayler) who couldn't come back in the game because of the illness."
Central first-year coach Scott Sekal watched his team shoot 36-percent from the field (15-of-42) and turn the ball over 18 times.
"After the first three minutes we didn't execute," said Sekal. "When one person breaks down everybody breaks down. It's a waterfall affect. It's all about learning and execution and putting runs together."
Defensively, it was in Central's game plan to try to contain Northridge's shooters.
"We knew coming in that Northridge has always had shooters," Sekal said. "We didn't get it our hands up and we didn't do what we were suppose to do. We would play well defensively for part of a possession and then we would break down. It takes five people to be successful in high school basketball."
Ty Windy is the only one of the three seniors on this year's team that played basketball last year. Isaiah Chandler and Mark Brownlee are newcomers this year.
"I've just got to keep going and keep teaching and help the team learn what it needs to do," Sekal said. "I've got to find groups that will execute well. It's a process and we just have to keep taking positive steps."
Luke Teich scored 11 points and grabbed five rebounds for the Blue Blazers.
NORTHRIDGE 64, ELKHART CENTRAL 37
NORTHRIDGE: Camden Knepp 4 1-2 12, Sam Smith 7 2-3 20, Alex Stauffer 3 2-4 8, Drew Gayler 0 0-0 0, Carter Stoltzfus 8 0-0 21, Clay Stoltzfus 0 0-0 0, Brandon Miller 0 0-0 0, Trevor Brown 1 0-0 3, Micah Hochstetler 0 0-0 0. Totals: 23-51 (.450), 5-9 (.555), 64.
CENTRAL: Isaiah Chandler 3 0-0 6, Luke Teich 4 2-3 11, Cam'ron Daniels 1 1-2 3, Mark Brownlee 2 0-4 4, Ty Windy 1 0-0 3, Donovan Johnson 2 0-0 5, Issac Stewart 0 0-0 0, Akita Walker 1 0-0 3, Jerry Hodges 0 0-0 0, Armon Hurt 1 0-0 2. Totals: 15-42 (.357), 3-9 (.333), 37.
3-point goals: Northridge (13) - Carter Stoltzfus 5, Smith 4, Knepp 3, Brown; Central (4) - Teich, Windy, Johnson, Walker. Rebounds: Northridge (28) - Stauffer 9, Knepp 6; Central (29) - Brownlee 6, Chandler 5, Teich 5. Turnovers: Northridge 9, Central 18. Steals: Northridge (7) - Carter Stoltzfus 3, Clay Stoltzfus 2; Central (6) - Daniels 2. Total fouls: Northridge 12, Central 13. Records: Northridge 1-0, Central 0-1.