HOOD RIVER — Coaches have games they will always remember. And then there’s the games they will never forget.
Coach Tom Ames and the HRV boys basketball team started the new year in grand style Thursday, beating the No. 9 state-ranked Central Catholic Rams 68-59.
“Easily the biggest win I’ve been associated with here at HRV,” said the fourth-year head coach. “It was a gratifying win for me and the team because Central came in here thinking it would be easy.”
Senior center Eric Nelson came off the bench to score a game-high 24 points, including eight in the fourth quarter, and helped guide the Eagles into second place in the Mt. Hood Conference standings at
3-1 (6-6 overall).
“It’s about time,” Nelson said of his breakout performance. “Those guys have been feeding me down low all season in practice and in games. I finally started catching the ball tonight.”
He was also a monster in the lane, collecting 4 rebounds and taking the ball up strong to get to the free-throw line, where he went 4-4 on the night.
Brendon Charles and Andy Holmson also spent a lot of time at the stripe and clamped down late in the second half to help preserve the win.
Holmson went 7-10 from the line in the game and made two crucial free throws with 7 seconds left to ice the win. He finished with nine points, six assists and three boards, but it was his magician-like ball-handling and sharp passing which gave HRV its most glaring advantage.
“Andy was pretty much in control of the game from the outset,” Ames said. “He jump-started our offense and allowed it to run long enough for the other guys to get open looks.
“Our ball movement was better and we were a lot more patient, but what it really came down to is, we made shots,” he said.
Nate Armerding scored 13 in the game and got off to his usual hot start, nailing two three-pointers in the opening frame. Charles pitched in 11 and played a solid all-around game, collecting nine rebounds and rivaling Holmson’s court vision with six dimes of his own — one a no-look, wrap-around pass to Nelson in the lane during the second quarter.
HRV set the pace early and matched the athletic Rams shot for shot in the first quarter. After falling behind 5-2, the Eagles went on a 13-0 run that was capped by an Armerding three at 3:40. Dominant play on the offensive glass and scrappy defense allowed HRV to stretch the lead to 22-15 at the end of one.
The Eagles kept up the intensity and scored the first six points of the second quarter to go up 28-15. Central Catholic stepped up its defense and managed to keep the game close.
But instead of trying to narrow the gap before halftime, the Rams went to a spread offense and let the final minute tick away, content to be down only 11 points at 36-25.
The Rams came out of the locker room with renewed focus, thinking they could intimidate HRV, but the Eagles continued to play their game by simply outworking the Rams. Holmson’s ability to break the press and Mitchell Bohn’s hustle and alert defense kept HRV rolling throughout the quarter as they extended the lead to 51-38.
After a slow start to the fourth, the Eagles built their biggest lead of the night after Nelson’s two free-throws put them up 57-40 at the six-minute mark. They sustained a short rally, but in the end, the story was that the Rams simply couldn’t slow down the up-tempo Eagles.
“We were just ready for ‘em tonight,” Nelson said. “Our mental outlook was better than the Pendleton tournament. We were a bit embarrassed and we needed to come back with a fresh start. Now we just need to keep rollin’.”
HRV 68, Central Catholic 59
Nelson 24, Armerding 13, Charles 11, Holmson 9, Bohn 7, Goin 4, Fogle 0
FG shooting: 25-38 (2-3, 3-pt.) — 66%
FT shooting: 18-27 — 67%