Photo by Ben Mitchell
HRV IN ACTION:Carson Flores, who has been a top performer since he was pulled up from the JV team a few weeks ago (including scoring a team-high 17 points against the Bucks Thursday), runs the point.
As of Friday, February 24, 2017
For the second year in a row, the battle for the final play-in spot in the Columbia River Conference depended heavily on the outcome of the final matchup between HRV and The Dalles.
Unlike last year, however, the Eagles were unsuccessful.
After starting out strong with a productive offense that gave HRV (7-14, 1-7 CRC) a 44-31 lead heading into the half, The Dalles (6-15, 2-7) mounted a furious second-half rally, eventually gaining the lead early in the fourth quarter and keeping it for the rest of the game, ultimately winning 75-68. The Dalles’ comeback was spearheaded by junior Dakota Murr, who scored an absurd 53 points, which The Dalles Chronicle reported was a Riverhawks school record. In the second half, Murr outscored the entire HRV roster 29-24.
‘We led late and ended with a loss — that was the fifth or sixth time that has happened this season. We have also had trouble adjusting to the opposing team’s best player, and Tuesday magnified that.’
The loss essentially gave The Dalles the final play-in spot in the conference, as HRV could only qualify if the team accomplished the difficult task of beating both No. 8 Pendleton (14-4, 9-0), and No. 11 Hermiston (15-7, 5-3) in Hood River later in the week. On Thursday, the Eagles were officially eliminated from the postseason after losing 51-41 to the Bucks, despite noble efforts from Carson Flores (17 points) and JJ Mears (12 points).
HRV Head Coach Christopher Dirks was frustrated by the second half, saying “that was not in any way how we wanted the game to end.” It was a familiar situation for the Eagles, as it wasn’t the first time they had difficulty in closing out a game this season.
“We led late and ended with a loss — that was the fifth or sixth time that has happened this season,” he said. “We have also had trouble adjusting to the opposing team’s best player, and Tuesday magnified that.”
Initially, it looked like the game would be a blowout for HRV. The Eagles seemed to score at will from all over the floor, going on a 16-5 run halfway through the first, and ending the quarter up 21-12. Although The Dalles made a couple of pushes, closing the gap to three at one point, HRV’s scoring barrage continued in the second quarter and the Eagles went into the half with Dakota Kurahara, Mears, and Jonah Tactay all in double figures.
The Eagles were able to maintain their lead to start the third and had a 16-point advantage in the middle of the quarter when The Dalles started their rally, sparked by HRV turnovers that led to quick transition baskets for the Riverhawks. The Eagles seemed rattled and their shooting went cold as The Dalles’ offense heated up. The Riverhawks continued to grind away at HRV’s double-digit lead through the remainder of the quarter, trailing just 55-52 heading into the fourth.
The momentum swung fully to the side of The Dalles at the start of the fourth quarter, when Murr was fouled as he a sank a three-pointer and converted the free throw for the four-point play to pull the Dalles within one and fire up the visiting crowd. HRV’s play grew frantic as players either lobbed low-percentage shots or were harassed by The Dalles’ defense, who held Mears and Flores scoreless in the second half. Consequently, the Riverhawks went on a 10-1 run to lead 66-58 with over five minutes remaining in the game. The Eagles never recovered.
Kurahara led the team with 22 points, Tactay had 16, Mears had 11, and Trenton Hough also had a double with 10 points.
HRV had a young team this season with almost no varsity experience and will only lose two seniors: guard/wings Zack Moore and Morgan Williams. Dirks hopes to keep molding that raw athleticism into better basketball before the start of the 2017-18 season.
“As a first-year coach with essentially a first-year team, I feel like we have made great strides in the right direction,” he said. “Shoring up those late-game situations, keeping a focus on shot selection, and working as a team this offseason will really help us move even closer towards success.”