Top-ranked Horizon Christian School clinched the Big Sky Conference’s regular season boys basketball championship this past weekend, but the Hawks have their sights set on a much bigger prize.
Horizon’s win Saturday at Griswold, coupled with South Wasco’s loss at Echo, clinched the regular season championship for the Hawks and the No. 1 seed from the West Division into the district tournament Feb. 14-16 in Hermiston. Horizon (23-0 overall, 12-0 league) was scheduled to play its final league home game Tuesday against Central Christian (results unavailable at presstime), and completes its regular season Friday at Sherman County in Moro.
The regular-season crown had been almost an afterthought for the Hawks, who have focused all season on defending their district and state championships. Despite those lofty goals, Horizon has shown an ability to focus on the task at hand, keeping a one-game-at-a-time mindset. That was evident Friday and Saturday, when the Hawks hosted third-ranked South Wasco County and then endured a long road trip to Griswold.
South Wasco hung with Horizon for a quarter, staying close at 18-11 behind three 3-pointers. But the Hawks buckled down defensively in the second period, and used a 14-0 scoring run in a 2½-minute span to open the quarter.
“We continue to try to get better in different areas,” Hawk coach Darrin Lingel said. “Ball pressure is an area we can get better at. Each individual player, we talk with them about getting better. We just hone in on those areas.”
Horizon limited South Wasco’s leading scorer, David Ocacio, to five points on 2-for-11 shooting. The Redsides also turned the ball over 29 times, including 18 times in the first half when Horizon was building a 41-16 lead. The defense remained strong in the third period, when Horizon outscored South Wasco 23-2.
“Important parts of a basketball game are finishing well at the end of quarters and to start halves really strong; overall, the team has responded quite well,” Lingel said. “What gets us going is our two wings, if you will, Mical (Engel) and Ryan (Aldrich). They set the tone for us with their defensive pressure, with our trapping defense.”
A day later, Horizon made the three-hour road trip to Helix, where it defeated the Griswold Grizzlies, 70-32. Lingel was able to rest his starters much of the game.
“Some games it’s a little harder to keep our starters in the game with respect to good sportsmanship,” Lingel said.
For example, Horizon’s starting front-line players — Wells, Totaro and Bloomster — played a combined 18 minutes, all in the first quarter. Yet, they teamed up for 21 points on 10 of 11 shooting, as Horizon raced to a 32-6 first-quarter lead.
“Going into the game, knowing Helix was struggling this year, we still want to be strong in the first quarter and execute no matter who we are playing,” Lingel said. “Our goal is to start with our inside game. … Once we get our inside game going, then there is less pressure on our outside shooters.”
Sophomores Jared Davis and Wes Johnston led the Hawks in scoring with 14 and 12 points, respectively. Horizon’s defense helped force 11 Griswold turnovers in the first period alone and 29 for the game.
Hawk girls earn third league win
Horizon Christian’s Schools girls basketball scored a season high 45 points Saturday in a 45-17 Big Sky Conference road win at Griswold.
The Hawks (6-15 overall, 3-8 league) had three players score in double figures, led by Marlie Bloomster and Trista Hicks, with 13 points apiece. Katie Tolbert scored 10 points on 4-for-5 shooting from the field, and fellow senior Kasia Nielsen added nine points. Bloomster led Horizon in rebounding with 10.
The win was a turnaround from Horizon’s performance the night before, when South Wasco County defeated the Hawks 42-17 in Hood River. Tolbert scored 10 points and Nielsen grabbed 11 rebounds to lead the Hawks in those categories.
Horizon was scheduled to play its final home game Tuesday against Central Christian (results unavailable at presstime), and completes its season Friday at Sherman County in Moro.