After a heartbreaker 41-39 loss to City Christian in the 1A boys state basketball finals last season, the Horizon Christian School Hawks are enthused and ready to start their quest for a state title; and with only one player graduated from last year’s near-perfect 30-1 season, they are poised to continue the dominating reputation Hawks basketball has built in recent years.
“They’re definitely well aware of how the season ended last year,” said seventh-year head coach Darrin Lingel. “Our goal this year, and every year, is to win a state championship. They‘re hungry for it; they’re fired up.”
Of last season’s tall and athletic starting lineup, only Jake Wells graduated. That leaves Matt Totaro, Micah Engel and Austin Requa on the roster as team captains and Mason Bloomster, Wes Johnston and Jared Davis as other leading players. Of those six, all are 6 feet or taller, with Totaro the tallest of the bunch at 6-5 and Bloomster at 6-4.
Lingel, assistant coach Mike Totaro and the Hawks start their season Friday evening with a home game against Clatskanie (varsity boys 7:30 p.m., girls 6 p.m.) and another home game the following day against Irrigon (varsity boys 5:30 p.m., girls 4 p.m.).
Opening with Clatskanie, a 3A team from the Lewis and Clark League, is representative of what Lingel says is a very challenging start to the season. The Hawks will also face 3A Dayton twice, 3A Horizon of Tualatin and 5A Hood River Valley High School (Jan. 3, 7 p.m. at HRVHS).
“It’s the hardest preseason schedule we have had to date, which is great,” he said. “Our philosophy with the program is built around defense. We play an up-tempo, high-pressure defense that gives a lot of teams trouble. Our offense starts when our hands touch the ball, and I think our transition offense will be stronger this year than in the past.
“We have a lot of the pieces to the puzzle this year. We have height, length and speed, and we have a healthy bench; those components are really hard to beat.”
The Hawks start their 14-game 1-A Big Sky League schedule Jan. 10 at home against Central Christian. Last year’s 1A state champions, City Christian, are in the 1A Valley 10 League. The Hawks won’t get a shot at revenge until the post-season; an opportunity Lingel says he and the boys are really hoping to get.