Photo by Ben Mitchell
The Horizon girls basketball team will be heading to the Big Sky district playoffs for the first time in four years, after defeating South Wasco County 42-29 to clinch a playoff berth. Above, Jodee Hicks, appearing in a game against Arlington last week, has been a key component of Horizon’s improved play this year, who often is the team’s lead rebounder and blocker and a prolific scorers as well. Below, Paulina Finn, shown in the same game, who is nearly always the Hawks’ lead scorer and is a force to be reckoned with on the boards and on defense.
It’s been four years since the Horizon girls basketball team has made an appearance at the Big Sky district playoffs, but now the Hawks are heading back.
Horizon (9-12, 6-6 Big Sky Conference) decisively defeated South Wasco County (10-11, 5-7 Big Sky) by a score of 42-29 in the Redsides’ gym. The win means the Hawks, who, as of press time, were sitting in the fourth spot of the eight-team Big Sky Conference, can finish no worse than sixth place, which is the lowest seed required to reach the tournament. Both Sherman (3-17, 3-9) and Mitchell/Spray (4-17, 1-11) can no longer catch Horizon.
The success the team has found this season, particularly in the last few weeks, shows a team that has rebounded after struggling to find wins — league or otherwise — in the past few years.
“They are excited,” said Head Coach Brian Stevens. “We have been getting better every game. Every game we make fewer mistakes and shoot our free throws at a higher percentage.”
The Redsides put up a good fight in the beginning quarters, though Horizon’s defense put up a better one, limiting South Wasco to just five points in the second quarter. At halftime, the Hawks owned a 19-13 lead.
Horizon ratcheted up the intensity at the start of the third, however, and quickly put the game out of reach for the Redsides.
“In the third quarter, we routed them,” Stevens said. “We opened up the quarter with a 9-0 run and never looked back.”
Horizon also took advantage of numerous free throw opportunities provided to them by South Wasco, with made free throws making up 40 percent of the points the Hawks scored Tuesday night. Horizon was 17-for-26 (65 percent) from the foul line.
Paulina Finn was HRV’s top scorer, having a great night with 17 points, eight rebounds, and five steals. Kaitlin Wenz was second in scoring and had a double-double with 10 points and 10 boards, as well as grabbing four steals. Jodee Hicks, who was coming off a near triple-double in Saturday’s 28-20 win over the Dufur Rangers, was a force around the rim, recording a team-high 11 rebounds and five blocks, as well as dumping in six points.
Chantelle Carter (two points), Alexis Ruiz (two points), and Haley Becnel (four points, three steals) also contributed to the Horizon offense.
Horizon was scheduled to play the Mitchell/Spray Loggers in Mitchell Friday night (results not available at press time), which Stevens said would allow the team to host a playoff game Wednesday if Horizon wins. The Hawks will then close out the regular season this Saturday at 4 p.m. when they host the Ione Cardinals (13-7, 10-2). Horizon will be looking to avenge a 33-30 loss to the Cardinals the team sustained Jan. 23.
The fifth-ranked South Wasco County Redsides once again proved too difficult for the Horizon boys, who lost 62-51 in Maupin Tuesday night.
Horizon (9-12, 6-6 Big Sky) put up a respectable 51 points against the sixth-best defense in 1A boys basketball, but couldn’t close out the Redsides (18-4, 9-3) in the final half.
The Hawks got out to a fast start on the road, outscoring South Wasco 15-9 in the first quarter, but the Redsides tightened up play in the second, shrinking Horizon’s lead to just two points by halftime.
The third quarter was a defensive battle that was won by South Wasco, who limited the Hawks to just five points and took the lead with a 13-point frame. Both team’s offenses were productive in the fourth, but South Wasco once again outscored Horizon, putting up 24 points to the Hawks 19 to seal the deal.
Horizon went 21-for-57 (37 percent) on total field goals and had a particularly goodnight from behind the arc, going 7-for-15 (47 percent) on three-pointers. Horizon was outrebounded 46-32, but won the turnover battle, giving up 15 to South Wasco’s 26.
Jared Bryan was the lead scorer for Horizon with 14 points and was second in rebounding, with six boards. Next was Ian Walker with 12 points and a team high six steals, followed by Ethan Evans, who had 11 points and tied for a team-high seven rebounds with Kameron Brown, who also had a team-high two blocks. Also contributing to the offense was Derek Johnston (eight points), Luke Holste (four points), and William Decker (two points).
Horizon will be looking to move up from its fifth-place spot in the standings and was scheduled to play Mitchell/Spray (7-14, 2-10) Friday night on the road. On Saturday, Horizon has its last game of the regular season, hosting Ione (4-16, 3-9) at 5:30 p.m.