The Horizon Christian Hawks were tired, but after the way their game had gone the night before, they needed this one.
The Hawks (17-2, 8-2 Big Sky) overcame some tired legs and a scrappy South Wasco (12-7, 6-4 Big Sky) effort to knock off the Redsides 60-46 Wednesday night.
The win allowed the Hawks to bounce back from a 75-67 loss to Sherman (17-3, 9-1 Big Sky) the night before which cost them a shot at first place in the Big Sky league standings.
The Hawks had beaten South Wasco by 45-points at South Wasco last Friday, and looking past a team it had blasted just five days before right as they were coming off an emotional loss just 24-hours earlier
The Hawks led by 19 at halftime and seemed to have the game in hand. However, the Hawks struggled to adjust to a ramped up South Wasco defense in the second half.
"In the second half they made some adjustments," said Horizon coach Darrin Lingel. "We didn't do as good a job as adjusting to that as we could have."
Still the Hawks dug deep and used their superior talent to fend off the Redsides after South Wasco had trimmed the lead to as little as seven late in the third quarter.
Tygh Weyand led the South Wasco comeback, scoring 10 of his 17 points in the quarter, including a three-pointer with 28 seconds to play which cut the margin to seven.
That would be as close as the Redsides got as South Wasco ran out of gas once the fourth quarter started, and went cold from the field.
The Hawks did not turn in a dominant fourth quarter performance either, getting just three field goals, but managed to hit their final four straight free throws and got a layup from Gabe Holste in the final 30 seconds to put the game away.
Lingel said the two games were a lesson on what the Hawks, who have beaten many of their opponents by more than 20 points this season, could expect on a night-to-night basis.
"We have to put our A game out there every time we lace it up," he said. "We are going to get everyone's best."
The sluggish pace of the South Wasco game was a marked contrast to the night before against Sherman.
In a match-up of two up-tempo teams, the Huskies were the team with more energy from the get-go.
Just before the first-quarter buzzer, sophomore Nick Coleman hit a fade-away jumper with a pair of Horizon defenders in his face to give the Huskies an eight-point lead. For the rest of the half, the Huskies refused to let the Hawks get within more than five points and left Horizon tired and frustrated due to several turnovers and missed opportunities.
The frustration for the Hawks peaked just before halftime. First, Husky point guard Scott Stroud came up with a steal and coasted for a lay-up with 10 seconds left. The Huskies followed with another steal, which led to a two-thirds court pass to Kyle Burnett for an alley-oop layup, which just beat the halftime buzzer and brought the Sherman fans to their feet as the Huskies took a 14 points lead to the halftime break.
The only thing which could stop the Huskies' momentum was the Huskies themselves - and they very nearly did.
Max (who led the Hawks with 22 points) and Matt (16 points) Totaro began mounting a comeback with inside help from 6'7 post Jake Wells (17 points).
The Hawks began to chip away at the Sherman lead midway through the third quarter. But every time the Hawks would get within single digits, they would stall their own attack.
With 5:12 to play in the third Matt Totaro pulled the Hawks within eight with four straight points. However, at the other end of the floor Wells was called for a shooting foul, followed by a technical foul.
The Huskies hit all four free throws to get back into a double-digit lead. Max Totaro again pulled the Hawks within single digits when he cut the lead to nine on a three-point play with three minutes left in the quarter.
Sherman responded with a 7-0 run keyed by a Burnett three-pointer to lead by 14 after three quarters. The Hawks continued to try to pull closer in the fourth.
They took advantage of poor free-throw shooting by Sherman late in the quarter, with the Huskies missing seven free throws down the stretch, and then used some open looks at the basket to close to within four points with 1:14 to play. However, the Hawks then committed several crucial turnovers and the Huskies killed clock and hit a few free throws to ice the win.
In the loss Matt Totaro suffered a high angle sprain in the first quarter but played through it. The injury kept him out against South Wasco and Lingel was not sure what the impact will be going forward.
The Hawks get virtually no rest heading into the final week of the season. They were playing a back-to-back Friday and today, host Horizon Christian of Tualatin on Monday and at Central Christian Tuesday before closing with a back-to-back next Friday and Saturday, including a game at Sherman County Friday.
Sherman is the only team to beat Horizon on its home floor in each of the past two seasons, and was the only team to beat the Hawks twice last year.
Lingel does not want to see that happen again.
"We'll come back," he said. "It gnaws at me."