Last season, the HRV boys basketball team ended its year in the regular season. This year, the boys extend their calendar beyond the regular season and had a shot at the OSAA State Championships, traveling to Sandy on Feb. 28 for a play-in game.
Wednesday night wouldn’t be the first time that the Eagles and Pioneers had matched up this season.
These teams met in the first game of the season at Hood River, with the Eagles coming away with the 65-57 victory.
Two months later, these two teams would match up once again, but this time it was for a shot at the state tournament.
HRV had kept within striking distance throughout the game Wednesday night, even taking the lead early in the fourth quarter, but a 13-2 run by Sandy in the closing minutes of the fourth would seal the Pioneers’ 66-51 victory over the Eagles, ending HRV’s season.
The Eagles were 8-17 overall and 3-6 in league play this year, earning an OSAA final rank of 30 in the state at 5A and a third-place finish in the Columbia River Conference.
On Wednesday, HRV opened the first quarter up 3-0 after a three by sophomore guard Noah Webster, who in the final couple games of the season has been called up into the starting lineup, including the play-in game against Sandy.
The three gave hope to the players, coaches and fans that this was going to be an exciting game right out the gates, but the first quarter would end 6-6.
“I think we were just a little amped up to start the game,” said head coach Christopher Dirks. “Biggest stage we’ve seen so far.”
Almost every single offensive possession for the Eagles in the first quarter, besides Webster’s three, ended in a turnover.
However, the boys were playing tough defense on the other end and on one possession even saw senior guard JJ Mears sell out for a charge on a Sandy fast break to get HRV the ball back.
It was clear that offensively, Sandy wanted to put their heads down and attack the hoop with strength, a clear advantage they had in this game, but the Eagles were able to take it to them and make life difficult for the Pioneers at the rim.
Senior forward Erik Siekkinen opened the second with a mid-range jump shot from the elbow, off an assist from senior forward Dakota Kurahara, to give the Eagles an 8-6 lead.
In the following three minutes, Sandy would gather momentum and go on a 9-3 run to take a 15-11 lead at the halfway mark of the second.
With the Sandy crowd into the game now, HRV needed an answer that would quiet the home crowd, but Sandy would get a huge block that erupted the gym.
However, with the ball still in play, Kurahara was able to gather the loose ball and would finish a hook shot through contact for an and-one, finishing the three-point play at the line to cut the Sandy lead down to 17-16.
Kurahara, in the closing seconds of the first half, drove it into the lane and slammed it home for two to silence the crowd as HRV headed into halftime down 22-18.
After HRV cut the lead to one at the start of the third, Sandy responded with a 5-0 run to take a 33-27 lead, and with 2:25 left in the third, Dirks called a timeout to focus the boys on closing out the quarter.
And the boys would do just that.
In the final two minutes, they went on a 7-3 run and ended the quarter with a huge block at the buzzer by Kurahara to head into the fourth.
With HRV only down 38-37 at the start of the fourth, all the pressure was now on the home team, and it would be even more so after the Eagles’ first bucket of the fourth.
Junior guard Carson Flores opened the fourth with a three to give HRV its first lead of the game since the first play of the game, 40-38.
Sandy got a jump shot to connect the following possession, but Flores would come right back down and answer by drilling another three. Sandy called a timeout with 6:30 remaining with HRV taking a 43-40 lead.
After the timeout, the game changed drastically in favor of the Pioneers.
Sandy ran a design play for junior guard Pierce Roeder, who knocked down the three from the corner.
Despite great defensive effort by the Eagles throughout this game, HRV had no answer for Roeder who had a game-high 33 points.
After the Roeder three, Sandy went on a run and never look back.
The Eagles went on a four-minute scoring drought and Sandy capitalized, turning a three-point HRV lead to open the fourth into a 55-45 Pioneer lead with three minutes left in the game.
The 13-2 Sandy scoring run would put this game away for good as the Pioneers knocked the Eagles out of playoff contention beating HRV by a final score of 66-51.
Even though the boys’ season has come to an end, Dirks explained how appreciative he is to have worked with this group of guys.
“For two seasons, I’ve been telling these guys to leave their stamp on this program. I believe they did that,” said Dirks. “They played with heart and effort that hasn’t always been demonstrated in HRV basketball. They set the tone for what it takes to compete and win some games. I can’t say enough how much I appreciate the commitment they had to this program.”
“We were glad that our last game meant something, and gave us a chance to make it to the playoffs.”
With Dirks the man in town now for the boys program, he wants the community to know to get used to this team being at the stage they were at on Wednesday night.
“We will be back,” he said.