By BEN MCCARTY
News staff writer
January 24, 2007
The Horizon Hawks returned from Helix late Friday tired and beaten down after dropping a close game to one of the bottom-rung teams in the Big Sky league.
Less than 24 hours later they walked off the floor at Wy’east Middle school tired but incredibly happy after knocking off the South Wasco Redsides 52-44 to hand them their first regular season league loss in three years.
Root led the Hawks with 28 points and Bobby Cofrances 14 points to counter 17 points on the South Wasco side by Robbie Hinkley and 11 points by Michael Burgett.
Horizon jumped out to an early lead, feeding the ball into Root and forcing the South Wasco defense to collapse on him as well as playing hard-nosed defense on the other end.
Root has taken on a new role in the Horizon offense in recent weeks as the team shifted him to post after its loss at Cascade Locks earlier this season, and saw the move pay off, as Root’s presence down low allowed Cofrances to get plenty of open looks on the perimeter.
The Hawks consistently disrupted passing lanes and rarely showed any adverse affects of playing their second game in 24-hours.
In previous meeting the Hawks tried zone defense against the Redsides, and while it nearly worked – South Wasco won their last three meetings by a combined 8 points – the Hawks could finish the job. This time, Coach Ron Haynes switched up schemes, alternating between man and zone, keeping South Wasco off balance.
“We switched up man and zone tonight because we felt that we could defend them,” Haynes said.
The tactic worked, as Horizon forced turnovers throughout the first half, and forced South Wasco to scramble back on defense.
Horizon took a 30-18 lead to the locker room at halftime after Root converted a 3-point play in the final second of the half.
As the second half opened the Hawks were able to keep up the intensity of the first half; however, the Redsides were able to hit an occasional three-pointer to keep the margin manageable heading into the final quarter.
Fatigue finally became evident in the fourth as the Hawks visibly began to lose momentum and composure.
As the minutes ticked down, Horizon worked to drain the clock, but South Wasco began to force turnovers and began to hit three-pointers consistently for the first time in the game and cut the lead to 42-36 in the final three minutes.
However, six points would be as close as the Redsides would get the rest of the way as Root took over the game and kept South Wasco at bay. Horizon again got the inside-out game working between Root and Cofrances to build the lead back up to 10 and used free throws to fend off South Wasco and get the win.
“We really needed this one tonight because the one last night was a game we got last year,” Haynes said. He added that with the anyone-can-win-on-any-given night nature of 1A basketball, a good team has to close out games that are winnable.
For Root, the lose to Helix the night before was a gut check, but beating one of the more powerful teams in the league provided an even more valuable lesson.
“It shows us what we are capable of,” he said. “We can beat anybody.”