The Horizon girls basketball team appears well prepared to have a breakthrough season as they’re seeking to reach the 1A state playoffs for the first time in school history.
Horizon won three straight nonleague games last week at the Open Door Christian Academy holiday tournament in Troutdale Dec. 27-29. Horizon won 55-23 over Siletz Valley (4-6) on Dec. 27, followed by a 48-16 win over Portland Waldorf (0-4) Dec. 28 and then concluded the three-game stint with a 75-10 blowout win over St. Stephens Academy (0-6) on Dec. 29.
The girls concluded their nonleague schedule Tuesday with a home matchup against North Clackamas Christian (results unavailable at press time). Horizon, guided by third-year coach Brian Stevens, begins a 14-game Big Sky Conference schedule Friday with a 6 p.m. contest on the road against the Sherman Huskies (2-6) in Moro.
“It was a combination of us playing better, but you also have to consider the fact that two of the three teams we played were not very good,” said Stevens. “I think this is the first time in a long time that Horizon has had a winning preseason record and the girls are proud of that accomplishment. The girls are just really happy to know that this team has the potential to win a lot of games this year and be a contender in our league. They are expecting to win league, but I feel that Arlington is the top team and they’re going to be really tough to beat. I do think that we’ll be one of the top two teams in our league this year, which would be just great.”
‘I think this is the first time in a long time that Horizon has had a winning preseason record and the girls are proud of that accomplishment. The girls are really just happy to know that this team has the potential to win a lot of games this year and be a contender in our league.’
The winning streak certainly helps provide Horizon (5-4) with a boost in their confidence as they’re eyeballing the start of league play with lots of momentum. Led by junior Paulina Finn, Horizon has displayed a highly prolific offensive attack (50.1 points per game average) and the Hawks are ranked sixth in offense out of 62 teams.
Finn led the Hawk’s offense in the three contests at Open Door Christian Academy. Finn had 25 points and 12 rebounds in the win over Siletz Valley Dec. 27. The senior quartet of Kaitlin Wenz (12 points nine rebounds), Jodee Hicks (eight points, 11 rebounds, four steals), Haley Becnel (five points, four steals) and Jasmine Stevens (two points, 10 rebounds) also helped provide key contributions to the victory.
“We played a fast-paced athletic style of basketball against Siletz Valley,” said Coach Stevens. “We utilized a full-court press frequently in the second half, which proved very effective and we held them to just five total points in the half. The girls moved the ball very well on offense and they found Paulina in open position off of screens and she capitalized on those for some easy catch and shoot scoring opportunities.”
“We had another fast-paced, pressure defense, run-up-and-down-the-court-style of game against Portland Waldorf,” he continued. “We started the game going ahead with an 18-0 lead. We ran our half-court offense well and we found players who were open for short jumpers.”
Finn (16 points, 10 rebounds), Alexis Ruiz (nine points) and Wenz (eight points, 12 rebounds) helped lead the Hawk offense versus Portland Waldorf.
‘We’re getting better, but we’ll have to take things one game at a time.’
Finn had a triple double in the one-sided victory over St. Stephens with 23 points, 15 rebounds and 12 steals. Hicks (18 points, 10 rebounds) Wenz (16 points, 12 rebounds) and Becnel (10 points, eight steals) also helped lead the Hawks to the win. Horizon’s 75 points and 31 steals were both a single game school record. Combined, Horizon outscored their three opponents 178-49.
With their impressive winning tradition in recent years, the Horizon boys basketball team usually concludes every season by advancing to the OSAA 1A state tournament quarterfinals in Baker in March. Surprisingly, the Hawks failed to achieve that goal last year, when they had a losing record (13-14) for the first time in recent memory. Horizon did advance to the state playoffs as they have every year for the last 10 years, but lost in the first round.
This year, the high-flying, 12th-ranked Hawks are focused on turning things around as they hope to reach the Elite Eight of the 1A level and return to Baker in 2017. There are many indications that the Hawks could very well accomplish their goal too. An experienced Horizon squad (six seniors) has an optimistic outlook and they’re currently playing with a high level of confidence as they’ve posted a winning record in nonleague games.
Horizon has displayed a potent offensive attack (52.9 points per game average) and is ranked 15th offensively out of 62 1A teams. The Hawks are solid defensively as well, allowing an average of just 42 points per game (10th-ranked defense).
The Hawks won all three games at the Open Door Christian Academy holiday tournament Dec. 27-29 in Troutdale. Horizon started the tournament with a 59-22 win Dec. 27 over Open Door, followed by a 53-47 victory over Portland Waldorf and capped the three games in three days event with a 58-19 win over St. Stephens Academy on Dec. 29.
The Hawks (6-3) played North Clackamas Christian Tuesday (results unavailable at press time) at home in their final nonleague contest. Horizon, guided by Coach Darrin Lingel, opens its 14-game Big Sky Conference schedule Friday against the sixth-ranked and defending 1A state champion Sherman Huskies at 7:30 p.m. in Moro.
“We still have lots of work to do and we’re a long ways away from where we need to be at with the progression of our team,” said Lingel. “We’ve had moments where we played good basketball, but then there’s times when we just haven’t played very well. We have to continue to improve things such as rebounding, limiting turnovers and doing a better job in transitioning. Those are three key elements that we need to improve on to be a better team.”
Horizon had a strong defensive effort against the Open Door Huskies (4-4). The Hawks held the Huskies to single digit scoring in all four quarters. Horizon jumped out to a 13-5 lead after one quarter and then extended the margin to 30-11 at halftime. Horizon outscored Open Door 19-7 in the third to build a 49-18 lead after three quarters.
“We’re getting better, but we’ll have to take things one game at a time,” said Lingel. “Our goal this year is to just try to become a better team game by game as a group and also individually as well. We’re getting better, there’s no doubt about that and we’ll continue working on everything to help improve our team as we get ready for league play.”
Ian Walker led Horizon in scoring with 27 points and also in rebounding with 13. Luke Holste added 17 points and Derek Johnston had nine points and 11 rebounds. The Hawks displayed accurate shooting from the field as they shot 54.8 percent (23-for-42) and they outrebounded the Huskies 45-22.
Facing Portland Waldorf (1-5) on Dec. 28, the Hawks had a much more intense contest that consisted of 10 lead changes and four ties. Horizon led 21-18 at the end of the first quarter. After a low scoring second quarter, the Hawks remained on top 28-23 at halftime. In an evenly played second half, Horizon outscored Portland Waldorf by just one point 25-24, but was able to hold on for the close win. Walker (10 points, seven rebounds) Holste (17 points, five steals) and Johnston (nine points, seven rebounds) again helped lead the Hawks to victory.