What was billed as a Big Sky Conference, West Division showdown never materialized Tuesday in Maupin, as second-ranked Horizon Christian School strong-armed South Wasco County, 78-42, in boys basketball.
Both teams entered the game unbeaten in league play, but Horizon’s defensive pressure, inside game and interior passing were the big reasons South Wasco is no longer tied for first place. The Redsides are known more as a deliberate offensive team under coach Jim Hull, but he has them playing a more up-tempo style this year. Their 42 points Tuesday were a season low and 20 points below their season average.
Horizon’s defensive pressure was fueled by guards Ryan Aldrich and Micah Engel, who set the tone of the game from the outset. Engel had a brief appearance, playing just seven minutes of the first half before sitting out the remainder of the contest so he could ice his sore left ankle. Aldrich stayed in the fray longer. Part of his duty included clamping down on South Wasco’s leading scorer this season, David Ocacio, limiting him to 12 points (on 4-for-18 shooting). Only two of those points (a pair of free throws) came during the third of the game when Aldrich was matched up with Ocacio man-to-man. Ocacio was coming off a 37-point performance against Sherman.
“Micah was injured with a sprained ankle,” Horizon coach Darrin Lingel said. “He came out and was just focused on aggressive defense. He and Ryan both just absolutely took it to them. It took them out of their game — that high-intensity defense. They hurried everything, and when they did get a shot, it was a quick shot.
“Micah and Ryan both get us into our style of basketball.”
At the other end of the court, Horizon’s starting interior players — Matt Totaro, Jake Wells and Mason Bloomster — accounted for 59 of the team’s 78 points. Totaro (23 points), Bloomster (20) and Wells (16) combined on 27 of 43 shooting, and also accounted for 32 of their team’s 47 rebounds.
“Jake, Mason and Matt did a great job down low,” Lingel said. “Our emphasis going into the game was to get the ball in low. To get the ball to Jake. And get it to the high post and then down to the low post.”
Horizon’s passing game led to 20 assisted baskets, something the Hawks have done well of late. Totaro led the way with five assists.
“I thought our interior passing was very good overall,” Lingel said. “We took advantage of our strength against this team, which was our height … We passed the ball well.”
Both teams were cool on offense early. Horizon led 8-0 before Ocacio scored South Wasco’s first basket with 2:53 left in the first quarter. An 11-0 run to end the period pushed the Horizon margin to 17 points at 19-2. South Wasco did cut into the Hawk advantage with a mini run of its own late in the second quarter, but a 6-0 Horizon burst gave the Hawks a 38-17 halftime lead. South Wasco could not get closer the rest of the way.
The Horizon girls (4-11overall, 1-4 Big Sky Conference) lost 58-24 to South Wasco. Marlee Bloomster was one of the bright spots for the Hawks. The freshman wing scored 11 points on 4-for-6 shooting from the field, pulled down 15 rebounds, had four blocks and six steals.
South Wasco’s full-court pressure fueled a 16-0 Redsides start and had Horizon on its heels the rest of the game. Horizon enjoyed a 42-24 rebound advantage for the game, including 16 offensive boards. But the Hawks struggled with turnovers (39) and poor shooting (23 percent) against the Redsides, who remain in third place in the Big Sky West.
Horizon was scheduled to play Friday night at Condon-Wheeler in Fossil, before returning home for a Saturday afternoon matchup against Nixyaawii.