The HRV boys basketball team came off a 71-69 loss at the buzzer in Hermiston on Feb. 2 before heading into its matchup at home versus The Dalles on Feb. 9.
In the first matchup between the two crosstown rivals on Jan. 30, The Dalles beat HRV in The Pit by a final score of 72-66, and early on last Friday night, it looked like the Riverhawks were going to go on and take another one from the Eagles.
HRV had jumped out to an early 6-2 lead with three minutes remaining in the first quarter, but The Dalles went on a 18-0 scoring run to head into the second with a commanding 20-6 lead.
The Riverhawks would completely suck the air out of the Eagle crowd as they went on a 23-0 run before Jonah Tactay, with six minutes remaining in the second quarter, hit the first shot in what was a five-minute scoring drought for the Eagles.
Over the span of The Dalles’ scoring run, head coach Christopher Dirks had called a couple of timeouts as an attempt to keep his boys focused, since as a player it’s hard not to get lost in the negative vibe a crowd gives off when a team is underperforming.
“The message in those timeouts was to refocus our energy on what we talked about in practice the days before the game, mainly about running through our offense and getting looks we wanted by working inside out,” Dirks said.
The Dalles total scoring run would end at 26-2 and their largest lead would be 29-8 before the unexpected happened: with four minutes left in the second quarter, HRV finally threw a punch, and it connected.
The beginning of HRV’s 14-0 scoring run was jump started by a Tactay steal and layup.
After the Tactay bucket in transition, Carson Flores got things going from behind the arc as he hit a three to cut The Dalles lead to 16, 29-13.
HRV continued to hack away at the Riverhawks’ lead, and in Noah Webster’s first start of the season, he came up huge with back-to-back threes late to cut The Dalles lead to 29-22.
HRV ended the second quarter on a 20-7 scoring run, trimming The Dalles lead to 36-30 heading into halftime — and now we had a game.
During the 20-7 run for the boys, Dirks felt that “it was them taking a deep breath and executing how I know they can.”
“Tactay, Webster and Flores hit a couple shots to spark some energy which helped us settle in a little. I was pleased that they kept playing — it’s easy to call it a game early when you are down by 21 in the first half, but I think the guys are starting to believe in what’s happening regarding a basketball culture around here and each other a little more,” he said.
Dakota Kurahara opened the third quarter with a block and turned it into a three for Webster on the other end. Now it was 36-33, The Dalles.
The Eagles last lead in this game was in the first quarter, 6-4.
Two quarters later the Eagles would finally regain the lead after a Tactay layup with 2:30 left in the third quarter, 44-43 HRV.
But the Eagles were unable to hold onto the lead for long, and in the closing minutes of the third, The Dalles would take a 53-47 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
JJ Mears opened the final quarter with a three to make it a one possession game and then Tactay went on a 5-0 scoring run by himself to retake the lead back from The Dalles, 55-53 HRV.
The Eagles ended an 11-0 scoring run to start the fourth quarter with an and-one finish by Webster in the open court off a steal and assist from Tactay. Now it was 58-53 HRV with 5:30 left.
A minute later, the Eagles were up by four, 59-55.
After HRV nearly stole the ball from The Dalles, the Riverhawks were able to gather the loose ball and find senior guard and go-to player Dakota Murr behind the three-point line. Through contact Murr was able to hit the three over a HRV defender and went to the line for a four-point play opportunity.
Murr would hit the free throw and tie this game up at 59 with four minutes remaining.
After the four-point play, HRV went on another 11-0 scoring run and ended the quarter outscoring The Dalles 22-8 to take the 81-67 home victory over The Dalles.
“When we are playing selfless and staying engaged in the game, on the court and bench, we can accomplish next level things,” said Dirks. “We have been in every game during conference play and given ourselves a chance to win in those games, but the thing that puts us over the edge is being a cohesive unit from top to bottom. It’s not an easy job and it's very impressive when it happens, as the boys showed last Friday night.”
The victory for HRV puts the Eagles in a tie with The Dalles for third-place in league as both team are 2-4 in Columbia River Conference play after six games.
Top-performers for HRV versus The Dalles: Tactay had a season-high 29 points on 11 of 16 shooting from the field and added seven rebounds, a team-high four steals and three assists. Erik Siekkinen was the Eagles’ second leading scorer with 16 points and went a perfect 7-7 from the field. Kurahara was one rebound shy of a double-double as he had 13 points and nine rebounds. Webster was the final Eagle in double figures scoring with 12 points on an efficient 3-6 shooting from the three-point line.
After the game, Dirks’ message to the team was to enjoy this victory and get ready for Pendleton.
“With how things have gone this year for all four teams in the CRC, there is a lot left open,” he said. “The four teams are pretty evenly matched, and any team could beat any team on any given night. We have some power with where we sit, and if we can take care of these last four games how we should, we will be looking at a play-in game, which I think this team deserves.”
The boys were at home Tuesday, Feb 13 versus Pendleton, the top-team in the conference (results unavailable at press time).
The Eagles’ final home game of the season is this Friday, Feb. 16 against Hermiston and the boys will end their regular season on the road in The Dalles on Tuesday, Feb. 20.