The Horizon Christian Varsity basketball team went to state for the fourth time in a row this year. I was luckily enough to be part of the amazing experience.
Our team consisted of 12 players: freshmen Ethan Evans and Luke Holste; sophomore Jared Bryan; juniors Nick Anderson, Wesley Johnston, Mason Bloomster and Ryan Aldrich; and seniors Austin Requa, Matt Totaro, Micah Engel and me.
This team is as close as you could get. We were a family. Everyone looked out and cared for each other. If one player fell, he had a teammate there ready to give him a hand. Even off the court, we had great chemistry. After the regular season and districts, our family had finally made it to state.
On Thursday, March 6, it was game day. We drove into Baker City around 7:30 the night before, so we were pretty well rested. Our first game was against Imbler. They were ranked ninth in state.
During the pregame everyone on the team was feeling jittery, even the bench players. It was our first state game this year, so it was normal to feel a bit nervous, but we went into it strong. We ended the first quarter with an 18-7 lead. Mason also made a layup right before the clock, so we were feeling good about this game.
Matt hit a jumper at the start of the second quarter and that set us off for the next quarter. We ended the half 37-22. Coach Darrin Lingel told us to keep being aggressive during half-time. The score ended 67-47. Then next thing we knew, we were on to the semifinals. Matt had 16 points and 10 rebounds while Mason (who was player of the game) had 24 points and 10 rebounds.
Crosshill was our next opponent. They were ranked 13th in state. They were the underdogs of the tournament. Even though they were the lowest ranked team in the tournament, they were not to be taken lightly. Going into the game, the aura around us was confidence. The jitters went away and we went out and played.
The first half of the game, Matthew Gille hit four 3’s against us, but we were still up 35-23. We were fired up at halftime because we knew we were just one half away from the state championships, but we were still one half away. We grinded the last half out to pull away with a 70-41 win. Micah ended 3-5 from the field for 8 points. Wesley went 3-5 as well and had 9.
We were finally at our dream game: Columbia Christian vs. Horizon Christian. We have been waiting all year for this game. Everyone in 1A pretty much predicted this as the state championship. All of our hard work for this one last opportunity to take down the giant. Everyone was saying how they were unbeatable — and we were tired of it.
We wanted to show everyone that Columbia Christian was not a perfect team. We were ready for this game. Our game plan was to shut down Arkadiy Mkrtychyan (who goes by Ark) and Kameron Chatman and that part of our strategy worked.
However, Columbia’s Luke Moody was on fire the first quarter. He hit five 3’s. Even with the phenomenal shooting by Moody, we were only down by 10 at the half. Our spirits were still high. This was a game!
We came storming out of the gates at the beginning of the third quarter. An 11-0 run put us ahead 35-34. This was probably the first time that Columbia has ever been down in any 1A game. Then they answered with a 12-0 run. Our emotions kept switching lanes every minute. It felt like we were bipolar throughout this game.
At the beginning of the fourth quarter, Matt fouled out. Shortly after that, Ark fouled out, but we were losing time. Our team kept grinding out until the final second. Then the final buzzer of the year rang. We lost 68-49.
The locker room was somber. There was country music playing that fit the mood perfectly: depressing. Our goals of the season were to win districts and state and we couldn’t follow through. Our team’s only two losses of the season came to two state champs. The first game of the season against 2A state champs Irrigon and the last game against 1A state champs Columbia.
Everyone was congratulating each other on the season. After the locker room, we headed back to the hotel to shower and have dinner. While eating our pizza, we just talked about the game. Nobody seemed to regret anything they did in the game that night. Everyone left everything on the court. It was a collective, almost serene agreement of satisfaction after the game, but we still were upset.
The seniors of the team were obviously the most upset. We had put so much work and time into basketball, just to end our careers on a sour note. Hopefully the team next year would have even more success than we had this year and next year’s seniors can end their basketball careers at the top.