Two things are for sure in Intermountain Conference boys basketball this season: The playing field is a lot more even, and no one has gotten weaker since a year ago.
That doesn’t make Hood River Valley’s climb out of the cellar any easier, since the Eagles are coming off just two league wins with the youngest, least-experienced team of the bunch.
The Eagles got their first glimpse at the new and improved IMC last weekend, when they traveled to Central Oregon to face Crook County and Summit, the two teams HRV beat in 2003.
But the Cowboys and Storm showed the Eagles that they have a ways to go before they become a playoff contender, sending them to their first two defeats of the IMC season — one by a little (52-43 to Summit), the other by a lot (68-34 to Crook County).
“The second half of the Summit game was the highlight of the trip,” coach Phil Vesel said. “After struggling in the first half, we ran our offense and executed our defensive game plan to battle back from 18 points down.”
One of the biggest lifts came from 6-foot-4 freshman K.C. Christensen, who took Summit’s biggest inside presence out of the game to help HRV cut the deficit.
“K.C. started the second half for us and brought discipline and poise to the court,” Vesel said of Christensen, who finished with a team-high five rebounds. “Stopping their big guy was one of the keys to us getting back in the game in the second half.”
Senior Pete Dills led the scoring for the Eagles with a season-high 19, which included three 3-pointers.
Junior Dennis Methvin tallied 11, and was followed by Jeremy Belcher and Christensen with four apiece, Shea Wooten and Andrew Snyder with two each, and Bruce Chiang with one.
“We had trouble executing certain things the entire first half, and played as five individuals instead of as a team,” Vesel said. “But I’m happy that we finished the trip on a positive note.”
Vesel hopes the Eagles play hard for all four quarters this Saturday against Mountain View, the same way they did in the last two quarters against Summit.
The Cougars (1-1 IMC) will be in town for a 7 p.m. tipoff, and Vesel believes that if his players execute the game plan and let the game come to them, they can compete with most teams in the league.
However, that was not obvious Friday against Crook County, when the Cowboys built a 37-14 halftime lead before blowing the game open in the third with an 18-7 run. The scoring line for HRV in that game was Methvin with eight, Wooten with six, Brian Crosswhite with four, and four players with three points each.
Junior point guard Dennis Methvin (at right) was named Hustle Player of the Week after recording three steals and 23 hustle points in the Eagles’ two games.