Undefeated Horizon wins Country tourney, ranked #1

The Hawks hold strong at top of Oregon 1A rankings

The Horizon Christian School boys basketball team methodically won the championship of the Country Christian tournament in Molalla last weekend, while the Hawk girls took home the second-place trophy.

The boys, now 7-0, defeated the host Cougars, 55-42, in the title game Saturday evening, after defeating then top-ranked Regis (Class 2A) in Friday’s opener, 56-34.

The Horizon girls defeated its namesake from Tualatin 30-27, in overtime in the first round, before losing to host Country Christian, 40-16, in Saturday afternoon’s championship.

First-year girls coach Chad Leeson said his team played some of its best basketball of the season at Country, specifically in the opener against Horizon Christian of Tualatin.

“The tournament had good competition,” he said of the field, which also included defending state champion McKenzie. “We definitely are continuing to improve.”

Horizon sophomore Trista Hicks, who was selected to the all-tournament team, and senior Katie Tolbert were forces near the basket for Horizon. The 5-foot-8 Hicks took advantage of a simple pump-fake-and-go move to score half of her game-high 15 points in the team’s opener, while the 5-9 Tolbert primarily used a post-up, drop step to add 13 more.

“Those two, in the first game, were definitely unstoppable,” Leeson said. “They didn’t have an answer for those two. Our strategy was to keep feeding them.”

The Horizon girls had a seven-point advantage late in the game, but turned over the ball on three possessions enabling their opponent to stay close and eventually tie the game, 26-26, on an off-balance, banked three-pointer at the buzzer to end regulation.

Leeson settled down his players in the 60-second break before overtime began.

“The key for me was to just stay calm, so they would stay calm,” he said. “I told them, ‘that was a lucky shot. They can’t stop us when we do what we do’, which is get the ball down low.”

Tolbert scored successive baskets inside and Horizon-Tualatin could only manage a free throw in the extra four-minute period. Active frosh Marlie Bloomster led the Hawk defense, and also led her team in rebounds and blocked shots.

In Saturday’s girls championship game, Country’s pressure defense and Horizon’s tired legs led to the Hawks scoring a near season-low 16 points. Country led 21-0 at halftime and outrebounded the Hawks 48-31 for the game.

“Country did a good job of pressuring us, especially in the first half,” Leeson said. “We were missing one of our best ballhandlers (Hannah Kempf) and we got into some foul trouble early.”

Foul trouble and fatigue also played a role in the boys championship, as Horizon suited eight players for the game and had key players saddled with fouls throughout the second half. Horizon led 13-0 after one quarter and 18-0 one minute into the second. Country’s young team settled down and adjusted to the pressure of the game, outscoring Horizon 15-9 to close out the half. Country used a hot outside shooting touch — seven three-pointers — and eventually cut the Hawk lead to 48-41 in the fourth quarter.

Jared Davis’ three-point play pushed the margin back to 10 points and Country would get no closer than nine the rest of the way. Horizon’s Mason Bloomster had 10 of his 14 points in the second half, and also grabbed 11 rebounds (including seven offensive).

The Hawk boys team outplayed Regis of Stayton a day earlier in the tourney’s first round. The Hawks steadily built a lead throughout the game, using a 53-29 rebound advantage and defensive pressure (24 forced turnovers) to keep the Rams in check. Matt Totaro paced Horizon with 19 points and 15 rebounds against Regis, while Jake Wells added 12 points, 11 boards and five blocked shots. Totaro and Wells were selected to the all-tourney team.

The Horizon boys play at 1:30 p.m. Thursday in the Portland Rose Garden against defending Class 2A state champion East Linn Christian from Lebanon.

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