Elevated by three straight wins last week, the Horizon Christian School boys basketball team is now atop the Oregon 1A rankings going into the third week of pre-season action. The Hawks (3-1) played road games last Friday and Saturday at the Country Christian Cougar Classic and another Monday at Horizon Christian in Tualatin, winning all three to set momentum in the right direction after opening the season with a tough 67-51 loss against 2A No. 3 Irrigon.
The team went on to play a non-league tournament Friday and Saturday at Dayton (results not available as of press time), followed by a week off from action before playing Hood River Valley High School’s varsity lineup in a Jan. 3 matchup (7 p.m. at HRVHS).
“Irrigon really shot the lights out against us,” coach Darrin Lingel said this week. “They’re a quality program and played a great game.”
Lingel said the loss, although not the result they were looking for, does have a bright side. “It gave us an opportunity to see what we needed to work on and where our weaknesses are. It’s kind of nice actually; last year we didn’t lose all season, until our last game. This year we already have that monkey off our backs.”
The Hawks started its stretch of three games in four days against Country Christian on Dec. 13. Jared Davis and Matt Totaro led the Hawks with 16 points apiece in the 67-38 pounding. RJ Hicks had 13, Mason Bloomster had 10 and three others contributed with points in what Lingel said was a great team effort. Lingel credited Hicks, a junior, for his off-the-bench performance, and for stepping up to a contributing role on varsity after playing JV all last season.
The path to victory wasn’t nearly as smooth the following day, as the team took on 3A Amity, in their home gym. After trailing most of the game, by as much as 14 at one point, the Hawks managed to tie the score at the end of regulation to force overtime. A second overtime was needed to settle the battle, with Totaro scoring several of his game-high 36 points in the crucial minutes to seal the 79-72 win.
“That was one of the best games I’ve been a part of,” Lingel said. “Totaro basically took the team on his shoulders at the end of the game. RJ (Hicks) also deserves credit for hitting two very timely three-pointers in the fourth quarter that sparked our comeback. We were down almost the entire game but never gave up and kept fighting back. We made some adjustments in the second half to account for their 1-3-1 zone defense, which helped shift momentum slowly to our favor. In the second overtime Totaro hit a three right away and we kept the lead the rest of the period.”
Totaro was 13-17 from the field, 9-11 from the line and led the team with 10 rebounds in the game, while Jared Davis chipped in with 13 points and eight assists, Micah Engel had 11 points, Bloomster had nine points and Hicks had 8.
“You never really know what kind of team you have until you see them battle tested,” Lingel said. “That game really showed a lot about the character and heart of our team.”
With only a day to rest and recover, the team traveled Monday to 3A Horizon Christian School in Tualatin, where they came away with a hard-fought 60-51 win against the defending 3A state champions. Davis led with 18 points, including three three-pointers, followed by Bloomster and Totaro with 14 each.
“Coming off an emotional game two days before and three games in four days, we didn’t know how it would go,” Lingel said. “We came out a little flat and tired and it wasn’t until the fourth quarter that we really took ownership of the game.”