Ben's Babbles: Back-to-backs may be hard, but Hawks have learned to deal

February 11, 2012

Every time the Portland Trail Blazers have lost the second game of a back-to-back this season, we have all heard on constant refrain: They are tired. We here how hard it is to play two games in two nights, often in different cities.

Last week the Blazers pummeled the hapless Charlotte Bobcats at home; the next night they went to Sacramento to play the hapless Kings, and lost.

Injuries must be taking their toll, said some. They must have looked past the Kings, said others. It's tough playing so many back-to-backs, added other excuse-mongers.

Cry me a river.

By the time the Horizon Christian Hawks finish playing Griswold Saturday night, the Horizon boys team will have played eight games in 11 days, and the girls seven.

Through the first six, the Hawk boys are 4-2, with their two losses coming at the hands of league rival Sherman and 3A Horizon Christian of Tualatin.

"The last 10 days have just been crazy," said forward Johannes Decker.

In the loss to Sherman, forward Matt Totaro suffered a high ankle sprain. He played through it the rest of the game. He got the next game off but returned to action 48 hours later. He wanted to play the next night, but coach Darrin Lingel took one look at the massively swollen ankle and told him to heal up.

Before the Horizon-Horizon game, post Jake Wells, after not looking so good for most of the day, made a bee-line for the trash can and threw up. He also tried to protest his way into the starting lineup. Lingel again wouldn't hear it.

Less than 24 hours after playing their toughest opponent of the year in Horizon of Tualatin, the Hawks were hopping on a bus at 2 p.m. Tuesday to drive to Central Christian in Prineville. That's a nearly six-hour round-trip. Not in a private comfy charter, mind you, but a school bus.

"Every time the bus would brake going down a hill we would get jostled around and our knees would bang the seats," said Hawk girls forward Katie Tolbert.

The Hawk girls have been dealing with issues of their own. Trista Hicks has a sprained wrist and bruised knee; post McKenzie Mellow twisted her knee last week. McKenna Roberts injured her knee. M'Randa Aldrich was ill. The injury list goes on. Also, the team lost two players earlier this season to off-court issues.

So when the Hawks rolled into Central Christian just before game time - stiff, sore, in pain and a few battling fevers - they could have had every excuse in the world to do what the Blazers have done on the road, play down to an inferior opponent and take a loss.

Instead, they did what good teams are supposed to do, and hammered a lowly opponent.

They got back in the bus and arrived back in Hood River at 1 a.m. Wednesday morning. Unlike the Blazers, who can go to the luxury condos or first-class hotel rooms after a late-night flight and follow that up with a trip to physical therapy with an ice bath or massage first thing into the morning, the Hawks had more important things to do. Like get back to school first thing in the morning and then go right to practice.

Their remedies are a bit simpler than those in the NBA. They don't exactly have the option of being flown to Germany on a private plane for blood platelet therapy if their knee hurts.

"We take some ibuprofen and try to get good rest," Decker said.

"We all have bottle of hand sanitizer," said Anthony later.

After losing to Sherman, the Hawks slogged through a win over South Wasco, then did the same in a win over Condon-Wheeler.

They were not their best games, but they did what good teams do - find a way to win.

One of the saving graces for the tired Hawks was that in blowing out the Tigers at Crook County Middle School Tuesday, they got to rest their starters.

"We didn't have to play a ton," forward Sam Anthony said. "But it wasn't too bad."

Plus with all the games, that means less time plowing through a tough practice.

"Of course I would rather play than practice," said a grinning Anthony.

After the Blazers' loss to Oklahoma City earlier this week, much of the talk was about how the team lacks a "closer" after the retirement of Brandon Roy.

Apparently athletes can get paid several million dollars to play basketball, but can't be paid enough to be responsible with the ball in their hands at the end of the game.

Last week against Sherman the Hawk girls were trying to hold off a Husky rally. A flagrant foul knocked the wind out of Hawks post McKenzie Mellow. With his team struggling at the free-throw line and trying to hold on, Horizon coach Stan Perkins sent Hicks, a freshman, to the line for the injured Mellow. She calmly sank both free throws then blocked the Huskies' attempt at a tying three-pointer at the other end.

One would think that if a high school freshman can make clutch plays at the end of a game, NBA millionaires could do the same.

Maybe the problem is the Blazers just are not having enough fun. Take a look at these Hawks teams, and even with the injuries, the illnesses and all the peaks and valleys and they are still smiling, and can't wait to hit the court.

Ask the Hawk girls what has helped their season be successful and the responses come bubbling up.

"Our bench has been the best, they have been loud and supportive," said M'Randa Aldrich.

"I like coming off the court and seeing a bunch of smiling faces," said Hicks.

"This has been the best team I've ever played on," said Mellow. "They are amazing."

These aren't just clichés; they all believe what they are saying.

"My freshman and sophomore years I didn't get to play much and I didn't even dress down for districts," said senior Rachel Foss as she addressed the rest of the team. "This year I do and it's because of all of you."

You don't hear sentiments like that coming from the Rose Garden, but you hear it plenty at the Hawks' nest.

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