In the first game of the season last year, the HRV boys basketball team traveled to Sandy and were shown how valuable a talented team and experienced lineup can be.
Sandy had seven seniors on their roster, compared to an Eagles team that nearly was giving their entire roster their first ever nod on varsity.
This year, however, the Eagles would get their rematch against Sandy at home and flip the script.
The Eagles came into their home opener with an experienced roster made up of 10 seniors, two juniors and one sophomore, all of whom are returning players from the program last year.
Sandy traveled to Hood River with a group of four seniors, seven juniors and three sophomores.
It took the Eagles some time to get things going, but as the game went on, their deep roster found ways to contribute.
HRV opened their season with a 65-57 victory and shot 50 percent from the three-point line — although at the beginning of this game it seemed nearly impossible that either team would make any threes or even reach 40 points by the end of the night.
Three minutes into the game, the score was tied 0-0.
The Eagles started out against Sandy with senior guard JJ Mears, junior guard Carson Flores, senior wing Tanner Wells, senior forward Trenton Hough and senior center Carson Orr.
And up until the five-minute mark, both teams were careless with the ball and missed opportunities.
Sandy came out in a press at the beginning of the game and the Eagles, more often than not, were able to break it, but as they got out in transition, they were hardly able to finish the fast-break opportunity at the rim because of poor decision-making that led to turnovers in the open court.
And when Sandy forced turnovers, the Eagles pressure on the defensive end picked up and often limited Sandy into tough shots at the basket.
The game finally saw a point go up on the scoreboard after a Sandy free throw with five minutes remaining in the first.
And then there was another minute drought, but the Eagles got things going with four minutes left in the first quarter.
Flores led the Eagles to a 14-13 lead at the end of the first quarter as he knocked down three, three pointers; Flores was the Eagles scoring leader with 20 points and five for eight shooting from three.
Flores’ consistency on the offensive end was huge for the Eagles throughout the game, especially in the first half.
The nine points in the first quarter by Flores often came after a basket on the other end of the floor by Sandy, so these points were huge shots to stop any kind of momentum Sandy was trying to gain and kept the Eagle crowd into the game.
The Eagles continued to feed Flores’ hot hand in the second quarter as he knocked down another three after Mears opened the second quarter with a three of his own.
And when the defense overplayed Flores, he found openings for mid-range shots and opportunities at the hoop.
Heading into halftime, the Eagles were up by five in large part due to the barrage of threes by Flores and the team’s defensive effort.
Sandy and HRV exchanged buckets in the third quarter and it was clear after the third that the game was going to come down to the wire.
But a 9-0 run in the start of the fourth quarter, sparked by a 1-3-1 defense by Jonah Tactay, Noah Webster, Dakota Kurahara, Braxton Wilson and Wells, helped HRV in securing the win at home in their season opener.
“My guys really brought it on defense with energy,” said Head Coach Christopher Dirks. “That is going to be key throughout the season if we want to give ourselves a chance to play in the postseason. I really think we have 13 players who have put in the work to step on the floor and be confident that we will have a chance to win every game we play. They are also bought in to what we want this program to represent, they played selfless against Sandy, and we saw the result.”
HRV outrebounded Sandy 42-29, but lost the turnover battle by a large margin, as Sandy was able to come away with 17 total steals compared to the Eagles’ nine.
However, HRV was able to fight through the turnover troubles with efficiency on the offensive end and tenacity on the defensive end.
The Eagles shot 43 percent from the field and 50 percent from beyond the arc, compared to Sandy’s 33 and 28 percent.
Before the game against Sandy, “One question we did have was if we would be able to out work a team that finished in the top 15 last season in OSAA standings,” said Dirks. “That question was answered early when we matched their energy and at times brought it to the next level leaving them to try and keep up. We have some really strong leaders on this team that want to see success, and if they continue to show that in practice, we will continue to see it on game day.”
Player statistics against Sandy: Carson Flores led the way in points for HRV with 20 and added two rebounds as well, but had a team-high five turnovers.
Jonah Tactay went four for seven from the field and two for two from three giving him 15 points in addition to his three offensive rebounds (four total rebounds), two assists and two steals.
Dakota Kurahara edged out the Eagles’ top-three scores with 10 points as he went four for eight and tallied in 11 rebounds to notch his first double-double of the season.
JJ Mears ended a poor shooting night for his standards with nine points going one for four from three, but as a leader on this team he found his way to help his team in other areas of the game as he topped off the nine points with six rebounds, two assists and two steals.
“After this game my message to the team was that I was proud of them, but it’s only the beginning,” said Dirks. “We have to go out to practice the next day and get better and make another statement in Redmond.”
The Eagles’ next game was on the road to Redmond to face the Panthers Friday, Dec. 1 (results unavailable at press time).