BELVIDERE, Ill. - Hononegah coach Mike Miller won his 500th career game Wednesday night in Belvidere.
Few have come any easier.
The Indians blasted the over-matched Bucs 83-46 in the NIC-10 opener, giving their veteran coach a stress-free evening to enjoy his milestone.
Smiling broadly, Miller recalled his first victory, more than 26 years ago while coaching for Rockford Guilford.
"We beat Cary-Grove in the Harlem Holiday Classic," Miller said. "Chuck Hanserd had a great game for us and we won in overtime."
No extra session was needed Wednesday, thanks in large part to a full-court press that harassed the Bucs into a multitude of turnovers and led to a number of easy baskets for the Indians, who led 27-8 at the end of the first quarter 51-21 at halftime.
"I've been really pleased all season at our energy and activity level on defense," Miller said. "I think our guys are very comfortable with our scheme and understand angles. We've got guys who are aggressive in the press. With some long-armed guys who are playing hard, good things can happen. And I see a lot of good things."
The other thing the Indians did well: Shoot the 3-pointer. Hononegah finished with 11 treys, including four from senior Brayden Hennis, who finished with a team-best 16 points.
"I like the way we share it and I like the way we shoot it," Miller said. "That can go a long way, especially when you're playing hard on defense. There's going to be some times where we're going to have to remind them how important rebounding is, but hopefully our defense can keep us in games and our shooting and passing can win games. That can be a pretty good formula.'
Hennis said after receiving decent playing time last season, he's looking at this year as his time to shine.
"It's time to have a big year for me," Hennis said. "Especially with not a lot of people emphasizing me, it's time to step up."
Caleb Donaldson scored 12 points and Kameron Kolberg added 11 as 11 Indians scored, with eight scoring at least six points.
"I'm very happy with the way the we played defense tonight," Donaldson said. "We've been amazing on defense and we're really tough to stop in transition. As long as Kameron and I are getting to the basket and we've got shooters all around us, we'll be good."
The Indians, who went 3-1 in a Thanksgiving tournament before beating the Bucs, will see the challenge increase significantly, and immediately. Hononegah will play at Auburn Friday, then host NIC-10 favorite Jefferson Wednesday. "We definitely can't get sped up when we play teams like that," Donaldson said. "As long as we take care of the ball and play defense like we did tonight, we'll be right there."
Miller, who received the game ball following the victory with his parents, college coach and several others looking on, said basketball has given him a lot.
"Just seeing who was here tonight and thinking of all the great players I've coached, it's pretty amazing," Miller said. "My dad was the first guy from Hononegah to get a scholarship (he went on to have a solid career at NIU). I was around the game from the time I was very little. This group I have now is a fun group. They are great to be around. They do what you ask them to do, and it's going to be a fun year. I don't have any other hobbies, so that's a good thing."