HALSTEAD — Halastead senior Andrew O’Brien helped the Dragons survive a tough early test with 44 points as the defending Class 3A state champion Dragons held off the Remington Broncos 66-52 Friday in the season opener for both teams in Halstead.

O’Brien hit 14 of 18 from the field, including six of eight 3-point shots and eight of 12 from the free throw line. He fell three points shy of the school record set by Dennis Latimore in the 1999-2000 season.

“They are a much improved team from last year,” O’Brien said. “I was really impressed. … I’ve got to hit my free throws. We won the game and that’s all that matters. We have a size advantage. We were able to get the ball in the paint. My teammates did a good job of setting me up for the threes.”

O’Brien said his previous high was in the 20s last year.

“Being defending state champions, every game is a test,” O’Brien said. “We have to work hard every day in practice.”

“I felt like he did a nice job around the basket,” Halstead coach Lonnie Lolar said. “His shot selection tonight was pretty good. He maybe took three or four shots where I said ‘OK.’ He was hitting, so I didn’t mind. I was most proud of the way he finished inside. He had some nice shots in the post. Not every night, he’s going to stroke that way, but he’s got that ability. We passed the ball well at times. It was just one of those good first games.”

Braden Gerber added 16 points for the Dragons.

Remington was led by Brayden Marciano with 23 points. Charles McQuiston scored 13.

“(O’Brien’s) good. He’s really good,” Remington coach Matt Regier said. “When we’d try to stop him outside, he’d get around the rim. He’s a good shooter. We were trying to get some steals to get back in it. We got out of what we usually like to do. I was proud of our kids. It was a game.”

O’Brien scored 17 of Halstead’s first 19 points as the Dragons jumped out 19-8. O’Brien hit four treys in the run. After a time out, O’Brien hit a pair of free throws that put the Dragons up 21-10 at the end of the period.

Remington drew within four points in the second quarter as play got a little chippy and physical. Halstead got the lead back out by eight. A Marciano trey at the buzzer got Remington back within five, 35-30.

The Halstead lead swung between seven and five for most of the third quarter. An O’Brien layup and a Gerber trey put Halstead up by 10 at the end of the period, 53-43.

O’Brien outscored the Broncos 6-3 to open the fourth quarter. Remington got no closer than nine points.

“We’re going to work to get better, starting tomorrow,” Lollar said. “At times, we didn’t guard. I don’t like to trade points like we did tonight. We’ll get there. We had some kids, where this was their first varsity game.”

Halstead opens the Tri-County Classic Tuesday at home against Ell-Saline, followed by Bennington and Minneapolis.

Remington faces Peabody-Burns and Berean Academy in pool play of the Marion Classic.

“I don’t know much about Peabody,” Regier said. “Berean is always tough. The other side of that bracket is loaded. In most of our games, we’ll have to play well to win. … I feel really good about our team.”

REMINGTON (0-1) — J.Martin 1 7-8 0, 9; C.Sommers 0 0-0 5, 0; T.Martin 0 0-0 2, 0; Thiessen 0 0-0 0, 0; Spencer 0 0-0 0, 0; Fasnacht 3 1-2 4, 7; Winter 0 0-0 0, 0; McQuiston 5 3-3 5, 13; Marciano 8 (2) 1-1 3, 23; TOTALS 17 (2) 12-14 19, 52.

HALSTEAD (1-0) — Kohr 0 0-1 0, 0; Farmer 0 0-0 4, 0; O’Brien 9 (6) 8-12 3, 44; Graber 4 (2) 2-3 2, 16; Kraus 1 0-0 2, 2; Talbott 0 0-0 1, 0; Schulte 0 0-0 2, 0; Pitts 2 0-1 3, 4; TOTALS 16 (8) 10-18 17, 66.