An air of confidence surrounded the HRV boys basketball team entering the 2001-02 season.
Coming off their best-ever 4A finish, the Eagles returned three starters and welcomed stealthy junior point guard Andy Holmson to direct the offense. Brendon Charles and Nate Armerding would provide the points, Eric Nelson, Heath Goin and Ryan Goe would clean the glass, and Jarrod Fogle and Mitchell Bohn would handle the dirty work.
The conference was billed “wide open; anyone’s to take.” League-champ David Douglas brought back three seniors. Barlow was coming off a quarterfinal finish at state. Central Catholic had a good recruiting year.
But HRV didn’t listen to the critics. When the No. 9 state-ranked Rams strutted into Hood River High School gymnasium on Jan. 3, the Eagles shot them back to earth with a devastating 63 percent clip from the field and ran away 68-59.
The win moved HRV into a first place tie after four games and showed the rest of the league how quickly the talent pool in the valley has deepened. The Eagles had suddenly caught up with the pack. These guys were going to compete.
The one thing lacking? Court confidence.
Fortunes quickly changed and HRV spiraled into an excruciating six-game losing streak. Two blowouts losses (Centennial on Jan. 15, Central Catholic on Jan. 28), three ordinary losses, and an agonizing buzzer-beater loss to Gresham Jan. 18 put the Eagles’ playoff hopes severely in question.
The biggest question for the players was, “how does 3-1 become 3-7?” With six games remaining, they needed to figure out a way to avoid 3-13. If they played nervous or tentative, the losing streak would likely continue. But if they played the game as though the standings didn’t exist — as a game, not a mission — the wins would take care of themselves.
And they did. On Feb. 1, the Eagles put on their running shoes and outsprinted Parkrose 65-49. The Eagles remembered how to play their game. Run-and-gun, behind-the-back, between-the-legs, over-the-shoulder, no-look fun.
The swagger was back. HRV went on to win four of its final six games, including payback road victories against Gresham, Barlow and Reynolds. The only two hiccups were home games against league runner-up David Douglas and the Thorson Towers of Sandy.
“It was a good note to end on,” coach Tom Ames said. “The players felt positive about the strong finish and everyone said they enjoyed being part of a team full of great friends.”
Ames credited the seniors — Charles, Armerding, Nelson and Goe — for their leadership and tough mental attitude in keeping the team together through some difficult times. Charles, Amerding, Nelson and Holmson all received all-conference honorable mention for their contributions this season.
The Eagles’ 7-9 MHC record matched the 2000-01 season as the best 4A record in school history, and gave returning varsity players Todd Shyppertt, Sam Murillo, Chris Mason, Fogle, Goin, Holmson and Bohn a mountain to build on for next season.
JV offensive player of the year, Goin, and JV post stalwarts John Winnett and Brian Crosswhite will assume much of the inside duties next season with the graduations of Nelson and Goe. Fogle and Shyppertt will take on more minutes at the two and three positions, while Murillo, Mason and JV MVP Tyler Monzie will see extended time in the backcourt.
Holmson and Bohn are the only two returning starters, but after the JV team’s 11-5 finish, the players will have confidence on their side as they move into the Intermountain Conference.