The Horizon boys basketball team concluded the Big Sky Conference regular season by winning its last two games and they’ll move on to the district playoffs with the momentum that has propelled them to wins in seven of their last 10 contests. Horizon (11-12 overall, 8-6 Big Sky) won 63-41 on the road Friday over the Mitchell/Spray Loggers, then followed with a 59-38 home win Saturday over the Ione Cardinals.
Horizon, which took fourth place in the Big Sky, will play the fifth-place Condon-Wheeler Knights (10-13, 6-8) in a district playoff game this Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Horizon Christian. Horizon won two earlier games against Condon/Wheeler, 56-43 and 61-49. The winner will advance to the four-team Big Sky Conference tournament Feb. 19-20 at Madras High School. If Horizon wins, they’ll play the No. 3-ranked Sherman Huskies (20-4, 14-0) Friday at 7:30 p.m. The top-three squads qualify for the 1A state playoffs beginning Feb. 24. Horizon, guided by first-year coach Sam Trevino, is seeking to reach the state playoffs for a sixth straight year.
“The boys are just happy to be in this position and making the playoffs validates everything for them, because they need to believe that they’re a good team,” he said. “They now believe that they can go out on the court with anybody and compete on a very high level with any team. Despite all the losses we’ve had this year, the way the team has continued to respond and be resilient is very impressive. Condon/Wheeler is a good team and they want to go to Madras too. It’s hard to beat a good team three times in a row, so we can’t overlook them.”
On Friday versus Mitchell-Spray (7-16, 2-12), Horizon took control in the second half following a seesaw first half (10 lead changes) in which they trailed at halftime 27-26. The Hawks surged ahead in the third quarter when they outscored the Loggers 22-5 and took a 48-32 lead after three quarters. Horizon, led by the trio of double-digit scorers Luke Holste (12 points), Ethan Evans (10 points, seven rebounds, five steals) and Ian Walker (11 points), continued its dominant second half performance, outscoring the Loggers 15-9 for the impressive blowout victory. Horizon’s 63 points was its second-highest point total this year.
“We just turned our defensive intensity level up in the second half and the boys responded well to the challenge,” said Trevino. “We needed to get a big lead so that we could get playing time for everyone on our bench and we did that in our last two games. They’ve all been working really hard together and everyone deserves credit.”
On Saturday at home versus Ione (4-18, 3-11), the Hawks came out and played with a high intensity level in a dominating win in which they led from start to finish. Horizon opened up a 17-4 first quarter advantage and then took control of the game in building a 26-7 halftime lead. The Hawks had one of their most accurate shooting performances of the season. Horizon shot 54 percent from the field (25-for-46), including 7-for-13 shooting by Jared Bryan (16 points, nine rebounds) and 5-for-10 shooting by Zach Walker (career-high 10 points).
The Hawks had balanced scoring with total of 11 players who scored in the game. Trevino utilized his bench players (Luke Holste, Bailey Holste, Evans, Derek Johnston, Kyle Brown, Quinn Roetcisoender, William Decker, Ian Walker) early in the game after building a big early advantage and they continued to keep the momentum going for the Hawks.
The Horizon girls basketball team reached the Big Sky Conference district playoffs for the first time since 2012 after their most successful season in school history. Horizon (11-12, 8-6) won both weekend games to extend their win streak to four games.
Horizon won 28-21 on the road Friday over the Mitchell-Spray Loggers (4-19, 1-13). The Hawks followed with an impressive 42-39 home win Saturday over the Ione Cardinals (14-8, 11-3).
“It’s been fun from the start of the year to see the team grow and continue to get better in every practice and in every game,” said Horizon Head Coach Brian Stevens. “I couldn’t be more proud of them and it’s just been unbelievable the way they’ve responded after every practice and the way they’ve improved in every game. We beat the number two team in our league (Ione) and they wanted to get the win just as much as we did and they didn’t hold nothing back. The kids are excited about being in the playoffs and they really want to go to the district tournament in Madras. One more win and then I will feel pretty content about this team and the success we’ve had this season.”
Horizon finished the regular season by taking fourth place in the eight-team league. The Hawks faced the South Wasco County Redsides (11-12, 6-8) in a league playoff game Tuesday at home (results unavailable at press time). The winner of that contest qualifies for the four-team Big Sky district playoffs Feb. 19-20 at Madras High School. The top three district finishers advance to the 1A state playoffs starting Feb. 23.
On Friday at Mitchell/Spray, the Hawks trailed 16-13 at halftime. Horizon’s solid defense limited the Loggers to just five second-half points, including just one field goal and three free throws. Kaitlin Wenz led Horizon in scoring with 12 points and she had nine rebounds. Jodee Hicks led the Hawks in rebounding with 11 and had six blocked shots. Paulina Finn had a strong performance with nine points, 12 rebounds and six steals.
On Saturday at home versus the Cardinals, the Hawks played with a high intensity level to get their biggest win of the season against a likely state playoff contender. Horizon trailed by five points with less than two minutes remaining. Stevens utilized three remaining timeouts, managed the clock appropriately, and provided the Hawks with proper instructions to make key plays at the end to get the win.
Hicks (12 points, 13 rebounds, six blocks) scored on a jumper on one possession and then Finn had a steal and a breakaway layup. Finn (19 points, six rebounds, five steals) then hit four clutch free throws on consecutive Hawk possessions to give Horizon a three-point advantage to help pull out the victory. The Hawks shot 56 percent (9-for-16) from the line, which was one of the best efforts this year. Wenz (nine points 11 rebounds), Haley Becnel (two points, four steals) and Brittney Renner (two points, six rebounds) also made important contributions to help lead the Hawks to the win.
Horizon’s success can be partly attributed to improved accuracy at the line. In one game earlier this season, the Hawks shot a dismal 3-for-31 and they had another contest when they shot 7-for-28. The team has been practicing free throws more often and it’s paid off as the Hawks have been shooting in the 50-percent range or higher in the last few games.