As Crow High School’s boys basketball season came to an end Friday night, a young fan in red and black face paint sitting behind the Horizon Christian School bench quipped: “It looks like we’re going back to Baker.”
The poignancy of the comment is this: It came midway through the second quarter of the game in Hood River.
Horizon’s eventual 80-27 Class 1A state playoff drubbing of the Cougars was pretty much decided by halftime. That’s as long as it took the top-ranked Hawks to distance themselves from Crow and gain some momentum heading into this week’s final eight state tourney in Baker City.
“Tonight we got into our groove and that was what we wanted to accomplish,” coach Darrin Lingel said. “That’s what the coaching staff wanted to see — we wanted to get back into our groove.”
That fact wasn’t lost on the Horizon players.
“We’re ready for Baker, that’s all this game means,” said junior Matt Totaro, who led the Hawks with 24 points, 11 rebounds and six steals. “What can I say, we came out hard … we were just ready. Everyone on the court proved something tonight, even our backups.”
Horizon pushed its season record to 28-0 and stretched its win streak over two seasons to 36 games. Included in that run is the 2012 state championship, something the Hawks are hoping to duplicate this week. Horizon opens state tourney play with a 1:30 p.m. Wednesday contest against Country Christian School of Molalla.
“We’re excited about Baker,” Lingel said. “This is the third time in a row. This team is excited. We have three more games and our goal all year –– two goals –– were to win the district championship and to be state champions.
“We’re on a mission to do that.”
That was evident Friday, when the Hawks overwhelmed Crow with a variety of defensive pressures. The 27-point output was the lowest this season for the Cougars (previous low was 40) and 42 points less than their per-game scoring average.
“We just got out to a fast start,” said junior Mason Bloomster, who was nursing gashes above both eyes that later had to be stitched up in the hospital emergency room. “It all started on defense; that really got us fired up.”
Horizon limited Crow’s scoring by contesting shots and enhanced its own chances by getting out and running the floor. The result was a 41-11 halftime lead.
“We came out and did what we wanted to do, and that was to come out with a lot of defensive pressure,” Lingel said. “We challenged them, to see how well their guards play. They weren’t moving the ball as well and they weren’t dribbling as well, so we decided to go full-court. It was real effective.
“We got off to an eight, 10, 15-point run, whatever it was, and we got into our rhythm ... It was the defense that was the key.”
Senior post Jake Wells was a catalyst at both ends, clogging the middle on defense. Wells was credited with three blocked shots, but he altered countless others with his long reach. Wells’ stat line included nine rebounds, eight points and five assists.
“Jake maybe didn’t have as big a point night as he usually has, but he passed out of their double teams really well,” Lingel said.
Crow’s leading scorer, Brayden Anderson, came into the game with an 18-point average and 63 3-pointers. Anderson got few good offensive looks against Hawks defensive specialist Ryan Aldrich — and others — finishing with seven points on 3-for-17 shooting (1-for-10 on 3-pointers). Crow’s second-leading scorer, Toby Tripp, finished 0-for-17 from the field.
Aldrich also contributed 11 points (5-for-7 shooting) and six rebounds for Horizon. Bloomster added 12 points and eight rebounds, and fellow sophomore Jared Davis provided his usual spark off the bench with 17 points and four steals. The Crow defense had trouble containing the quick Davis, whose drives to the basket led to 8-for-10 shooting from the foul line.
Horizon shot 45 percent from the field, compared to 16 percent shooting by Crow.
Bloomster said he and his teammates expect opponents at the state tournament will have extra incentive to unseat the Hawks, but that’s nothing new.
“We’re used to that,” he said, gingerly touching a puffed up eye socket. “We’ve just got to stay focused and play basketball.”