By BEN MCCARTY
News staff writer
February 28, 2007
They may not be advancing to the championship rounds in Baker City, but the Horizon Hawks gave Hood River basketball fans a game to remember in their 40-37 loss to Columbia Christian Friday night.
A standing room only crowd at Vennet Court was on hand to witness a thrilling second half comeback by a Hawks team that had been dominated in the first in the half by a stingy Columbia Christian defense and methodical but effective offense.
In the final seconds, another Horizon comeback attempt came up just short, ending the team’s first state playoff appearance in its seven year history.
When it was all over, physically and emotionally exhausted Horizon senior Cameron Root, who led all scorers with 16 points, stood in the midst of players and fans milling about on the court.
“Everybody gave everything they had,” he said.
The loss brings to an end the best season in the team’s history, and the careers of Root and the team’s seniors.
“I’m so proud of these guys,” Horizon coach Ron Haynes said. “The first and second quarters were not pretty but they came back.”
Bobby Cofrances, the Hawks’ leading scorer, was held to just two points on the night, but several others players played big roles for the Hawks in filling the scoring slack, including Josh Larson with 8 points, Nate Johnson with 7 points, Jake Johnson with 4 points. Joel Hunt led the Knights with 11 points, while Corey Tillman and Colby Worrell added 10 points each.
A scrambling second half, which included a 12-0 run by Horizon to start the third quarter to take their first lead of the game, contrasted with a first half in which both teams were content to take shots that the opposition would give them, and work the ball slowly up the court.
Coming into the game both teams presented opposite styles of play, with Columbia Christian preferring to keep things slow, and Horizon wanting to get up and down the floor.
For the first half, Columbia Christian’s style of play was clearly superior.
The Knights clamped down on Bobby Cofrances and forced the Hawks to look at other scoring options. While Horizon leaned heavily on Root, the Knights slowly moved the ball down the floor, with several possessions toping out at nearly in a minute in length.
Several three-pointers allowed the Knights to open a 23-12 lead at the half.
In locker room, Horizon Coach Ron Haynes made it clear to his team that even though they were down, it was not time to pack it in yet.
“I told them ‘You can quit when I quit, and I’m not quitting anytime soon,’” Haynes said.
The Hawks apparently took the message to heart as the team came out of the locker room and promptly went on a 12-0 run that put the Knights back on their heels and left them looking lost and confused as the third quarter wound down.
“They controlled the third quarter and we turned the ball over eight times,” Columbia Christian Coach Jim Flint said. “In this pace of game that could have been deadly.”
The 26-25 advantage Horizon held at the end of the third would be the final lead they would have in the game, as Columbia Christian outscored them 7-2 in the opening moments of the fourth to take a small, but ultimately game-deciding lead into the final stretch of the game.
Clinging to a three-point lead in the final minute, Columbia Christian worked to drain the clock.
However, several steals gave the Hawks a chance to get within one-point, or tie, but several free-throw and three-points attempts were off the mark and the Knight’s held onto the lead.
“That little lead we got was just huge,” Flint said of the team’s quick burst that opened the final quarter.
When it first entered the Big Sky league, the Hawks went 2-21. Five years later they have emerged as district champions and state playoff qualifiers.
For Haynes, that is symbol of how far it has come, and how far it can still go.
“When these guys were freshmen they were just getting beat up but they have grown with the program,” Haynes said. “Someone steps up every year for us.”