Following a disappointing loss one day earlier, the Horizon Christian girls basketball team came back to get an impressive win in their final regular season game to gain momentum in preparation for the Class 1A Big Sky Conference District Playoffs.
The Horizon Christian Hawks boys basketball team also bounced back from a tough loss one day earlier and played one of their best games of the year in a final regular season matchup against Griswold.
After a 16-point lead nearly evaporated in the third quarter for the Hawk girls, Horizon (11-13 overall, 8-7 Big Sky West) responded with an incredible fourth quarter. The Hawks, guided by coach Stan Perkins, outscored the lowly Griswold Grizzlies (3-21, 2-12 Big Sky East) 17-2 in the final eight minutes to pull away in a 46-28 win on Senior Night last Saturday at Horizon Christian High School.
"The girls came out and were ready to play and I'm real proud of their effort in working so hard to get a win," said Perkins. "M'Randa Aldrich (18 points) has been our top player all year and it's nice to see what a great job McKenzie Mellow (14 rebounds) has been doing with her strong rebounding. It's good to see that we regained our confidence after a tough loss to Sherman (36-32 Friday)."
The Hawks let a 10-point fourth-quarter lead vanish in a showdown for second place in league as they were outscored 14-0 in the fourth in the key matchup at Sherman High in Moro. Horizon came into the contest with a chance to possibly tie Sherman (14-11, 10-5 Big Sky) with an 8-6 won-loss mark if the Hawks would've won.
Sherman clinched second with the win, with HC earning third to advance to districts for the first time since 2010. The Hawks play the No. 5-ranked Ione Cardinals (18-4, 12-2 Big Sky) at 3 p.m. Thursday in the six-team event Feb. 16-18 at Hermiston High School.
Just 20 hours after suffering a tough defeat, Horizon came out strong and led from start to finish. Aldrich, Mellow (12 points) and freshman Trista Hicks (10 points) helped contribute to the Hawks offensive attack.
"It's nice getting a win, which always feels good and it helps give us momentum and a confidence boost as we get ready for districts," said Aldrich, one of three seniors honored in Senior Night pregame festivities. "Everyone did a good job tonight and it's a good way to conclude the regular season."
Also playing their final home game for the Hawks were seniors McKenzie Mellow and Rachel Foss.
Griswold used a 16-3 rally, to close within 29-26 after three but Horizon regained the momentum in the fourth by using a full-court press and a half-court zone defense to create turnovers and get some steals. HC regained a double-digit lead with a 10-0 run, capped by an Aldrich rebound and put-back shot underneath making it 39-26 with 2:06 remaining in the game. Griswold scored its only points of the quarter, making it 39-28 with 1:48 left and the Hawks scored the last seven points of the game for the final margin.
"It's going to be interesting at districts and we'll face a strong team (Ione), so it's going to be a tough game," said Aldrich. "You never know what can happen, though, so we'll give it our best shot. It would sure be nice if we could win that first game. Making it to districts is a big accomplishment and I'm so proud of everyone on our team."
In the boys game, the Hawks (21-4, 12-3 Big Sky West) ranked No. 4 in the Class 1A Coaches Poll, steamrolled the Grizzlies (4-20, 1-13) in an 85-29 win on Senior Night Saturday at Horizon Christian High School.
Horizon, led by coach Darrin Lingel, responded well while playing just 21 hours after a disappointing 65-59 loss to the No. 3 ranked Sherman Huskies (22-3, 14-1) in a first-place league showdown Friday at Moro.
The Hawks jumped in front quickly, while taking a 16-0 lead and they held a 22-7 advantage after the first quarter. HC scored the first five points of the second to gain a 27-7 lead on a jumper by sophomore Matt Totaro (13 points). For all intents and purposes the game was over at halftime as HC extended its advantage to an insurmountable 40-14 lead at the break.
Honored on senior night for the Horizon boys were Max Totaro, Jeff Wilkins, Gabe Holste, Mitch Engel, Joahannes Decker and Sam Anthony.
"The Sherman game was very significant for us," said Lingel, whose Hawks have lost four straight to the Huskies over two years. "Everyone had a strong effort; we played with a high energy level and I feel that we're doing OK as we prepare for districts. For some reason, it's just been kind of a difficult thing for us whenever we play Sherman."
Horizon, the defending district champion, took second place in league and will meet the Condon Wheeler Knights (10-12, 7-7 Big Sky) in the first round of the six-team Big Sky Conference District Playoffs at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Hermiston High School.
If they win, the Hawks will play the Ione Cardinals (13-9, 11-3), the Big Sky East Division champion on Friday, while a loss eliminates them from the playoffs. The Knights have lost three of their last four games, including a 47-40 loss to Horizon Feb. 3 in Hood River.
CW has had an up-and-down season, including a 54-39 win over Ione. The Knights also took Sherman into double overtime, before losing 56-51. HC lost on the road 70-60 to Ione Dec. 16 and the Cardinals are the only 1A team other than Sherman to beat the Hawks this year.
The top-three squads will advance to the 24-team OSAA/US Bank/Les Schwab Tires state playoffs starting Feb. 22. Horizon is hoping to advance to the state playoffs a second straight year and third time in the last five years.
"I feel confident that we can do the same thing we did last year and I think we'll take care of business at districts," said Lingel, whose squad advanced to the 2011 state semifinals and took fifth place in the eight-team tournament at Baker High School. "We're capable of winning districts, but there's just a couple of things we need to improve on."