By ADAM LAPIERRE
News staff writer
February 11, 2006
With their key 49-41 victory Tuesday night at Dufur High School, the Horizon Hawks have clenched a spot in the fast-approaching post-season. Holding a tie for third place with an 8-6 record, Tuesday’s game was a do-or-die for the Rangers, who are now eliminated from any playoff opportunities.
The Hawks, now 9-4 in the Big Sky, currently sit in second place with a big home game tonight against South Wasco, which will decide the final league standings and the Hawks’ ranking going into the playoffs.
Assuming Horizon defeats the Crook County Christian Warriors (currently 2-11 in the conference) on Friday, the Hawks will take either second or third place in the Big Sky West. If they defeat South Wasco, second is theirs. If South Wasco wins, and if Cascade Locks defeats the Arlington Honkers (currently 0-13), the Hawks will finish in third place.
The difference between finishing second or third in the conference is the Hawks will move on to play the Big Sky East number two team if they finish third, or they will move on the play the Big Sky East number three team if they finish second. Whatever the outcome, the Hawks are going to the playoffs for only the second time in the team’s history. The boys qualified last season but were eliminated in the first round.
Horizon pulled together for one of the team’s biggest road games of the season this week. With a loud Dufur crowd rooting for their Rangers, the Hawks overcame a six point first quarter deficit to tie the game 19-19 at halftime. The Rangers bettered Horizon by three points in the third quarter, giving the Hawks a hint of the bitter taste of defeat.
The game was decided in the fourth quarter, however, with Horizon besting Dufur 20 points to nine to steal the win and formatively halt the Rangers’ season as this weekend. In the fourth, Jeff Larson chipped in with five of his 10 points, Cameroon Root gave five of his 12 points and Jared Nagreen scored seven of his 14 total points.
“The kids came alive in the fourth quarter,” Coach Ron Haynes said. “We went from a six-point deficit to go ahead by 11 before Dufur hig a buzzer-beating three at the end of the game. We changed to our spread defense with about four minutes left. Jared Nagreen broke free for an easy layin and you could tell the air really went out of the Dufur boys when it happened. Our veteran players really came through in the clutch.”
Fortunately for the Hawks, the game did not come down to free throws. In one of the worst charity-stripe performances from either team all season, the Rangers shot only 22 percent and the Hawks only 48 percent from the line. The notoriously physical Rangers gave Horizon 23 free throw opportunities. Horizon, on the other hand, limited Dufur’s free throw attempts to only nine.
The Hawks play their final game, against South Wasco, tonight at Wy’east Middle School. The girls start at 4 p.m. and the boys at 5:30 p.m.