H-P Sports Editor

FAIRFIELD — The Palestine Wildcats showed what kind of team they are becoming as the Wildcats produced 26 steals in a 79-51 win over Hillsboro in the opening round of the Fairfield Chamber of Commerce Invitational Thursday night.

“I thought we did a good job flying around and we kept consistent pressure on them,” Palestine head coach Tommy Allison said. “That is the type of basketball we want to play.”

Palestine was not scheduled to start the tournament Thursday but the Wildcats were notified Wednesday that they were moved in the bracket.

The Wildcats (2-3) will play LaVega, who had a first-round bye, at 4 p.m. today.

The Wildcats started out slowly and trailed 17-6 after the first six minutes of the first quarter.

A putback by Ben Beckworth sparked a 15-2 run by the Wildcats. In the final minute of the first quarter, Patrick Turner grabbed an offensive rebound and made a 5-foot fadeaway to cut the Hillsboro lead to one point.

Palestine took its first lead when Adorian Arthur converted on a three-point play with a turnaround in the paint and the foul shot. Arthur then gave Palestine a 21-19 lead at the end of the first quarter when he made a basket in the paint at the buzzer.

Palestine increased its lead in the start of the second quarter when Greg Anderson hit a 7-foot jumper and then on the Wildcats’ next possession, Anderson inbounded the ball to Kevin Birdow for a layup to give Palestine a 27-21 lead.

Anderson led Palestine with 17 points and five assists while Birdow finished with 12 points.

The Palestine pressuring defense started to cause Hillsboro to struggle holding onto the ball. Hillsboro committed 34 turnovers for the game.

The Wildcats took a double-digit lead (31-21) halfway through the second quarter when Kevin Swanson got one of his team-high six steals, feed the ball to Anderson, who found Lester Anderson for the layup.

In the next minute, Greg Anderson completed a three-point play and Swanson got another steal and took it himself for the basket as Palestine led 36-23.

Palestine went into halftime with a 44-27 lead as Larry Jackson, who had 12 points and eight rebounds, made two free throws with a second left in the half.

The second half was much of the same for Palestine as the Wildcats continued to pressure Hillsboro into turnovers. A Birdow steal led to a Beckworth layup to give Palestine a 50-33 lead halfway through the third quarter.

Palestine then put the game away by outscoring Hillsboro 21-11 in the fourth quarter.

The Wildcats showed the versatility on offense, having 10 players score.

“When we play the style we play defensively, we are going to get a lot of people involved on offense,” Allison said.