Jan. 21—EXETER — The Exeter High School boys basketball team entered Friday night's contest against rival Winnacunnet having not played a game since Jan. 10, but if the Blue Hawks had to shake off any rust, they must have done so during pregame warmups.
The Blue Hawks had a double-digit lead less than four minutes into the contest and led wire to wire en route to a 78-61 victory in a packed gym at Exeter High School.
Exeter made 13 3-pointers in the win, which raised the team's Division I record to 6-2.
"We talked about that (the layoff) in the locker room," Exeter coach Jeff Holmes said. "I was a little leery because we had 10 days off.
"We came out guns a-blazin' and in this type of atmosphere it helps if you hit your first couple shots. We got out to a lead and got them on their heels a little bit. I was real pleased with our energy, hustle and focus. We shot real well."
No one shot better than Exeter guard Ryan Luper, who tossed in a career-high 31 points. Luper, who made five 3-pointers, had 14 points in the first quarter and 21 at halftime.
Exeter led 25-11 after one quarter and Luper made a jump shot that beat the first-half buzzer to give the Blue Hawks a 43-25 halftime lead.
"I don't think there's any other rivalry this big in the state," Luper said. "We knew the crowd was going to be big, so it was really just about settling in. As soon as I hit the first one, I was ready to shoot it. We got hot early."
Matt Cromer added 16 points for the Blue Hawks, who received 14 points from Evan Pafford and 10 from Kooper Marier.
Jared Khalil, a transfer from Sanborn Regional, led Winnacunnet (6-3) with 26 points, including three 3-pointers. Andrew Simmons was the only other Winnacunnet player who scored in double figures (12).
The Warriors never pulled closer than 14 points in the second half.
"Really proud of (Khalil's) effort," Winnacunnet coach Jay McKenna said. "He tried to put together a Herculean effort to carry us. He needed some more help from his teammates.
"They just kept making and hitting and hitting. We'd make a play or two and they'd make three. That's what it seemed like to me. We just struggled to put a successful run together. Luper played a tremendous game."