The Horizon Christian Hawks have reached the conclusion of their successful 2018-2019 basketball season, following Wednesday’s 66-44 loss to Nixyaawii High School in the quarterfinals of the OSAA 1A State Playoffs and Thursday’s 59-28 loss to Sherman County High School in the consolation bracket.

The Hawks have innumerable reasons to reflect with pride on their year, which head coach Darrin Lingel elaborated on to the team following the Sherman loss.

“I told the guys, ‘Don’t let these games define us, we had a great (season),’” said Lingel. “We got the maximum potential out of these kids; they played hard and with heart.”

The Hawks were left on their heels against Nixyaawii, a team notorious for their fast-paced offense and talented shooters. One Nixyaawii player, sophomore Moses Moses, connected on seven-of-nine three pointers, an incredible 78 percent shooting rate; Moses would score 21 of his 25 total points from three.

“Moses came out and shot really well,” said Lingel. “We made some adjustments to cover him at halftime but the damage was done in the first half. You just tip your hat there, he did well.”

Whether Horizon may have survived had Moses not shot well is hard to imagine given their own offensive performance; the Hawks shot 29 percent from the field including three. That is the sole difference between these teams — no other statistic is grossly disproportionate. Horizon didn’t turn the ball over more, they didn’t get terribly outrebounded (29 to Nix’s 36) and they didn’t commit excessive fouls.

“We’ve had a hard time scoring this year, averaging about 55 points per game and lately that’s been lower,” said Lingel. “Nixyaawii had a lot of offensive weapons. The reality is you have to be able to score more to win.”

The Hawks did mount a slight comeback in the third quarter, bringing the halftime margin of 14 points down to just six, but it was all for naught when Nixyaawii answered with back to back scores and an extension of the lead back into double digits. After that, Horizon never recovered.

“We were coming back,” said Lingel. “When you face those challenges as a team, you have to trust each other and we did that and found success. But when you start climbing a mountain, like we were doing, and then the mountain top gets extended, it really deflates you.”

Not much else can be said about that game; the Hawks were outscored and Moses is a fine shooter. Scoring for the Hawks were Derek Johnston with 12, Alex Petshow with 11, Bailey Holste with eight, Caleb Lingel with seven and Kyle Brown with six.

With that loss on their backs, the team woke early the following morning to play their rival Sherman for the fourth time this year. Sherman had lost the night before to Prairie City.

“I thought both teams came out a bit slow,” said Lingel.

“I think we lacked energy early on, and after a few minutes Sherman got a lead, which gave them energy and we couldn’t match that. It’s not that the kids didn’t want to play well or try; when your mind goes, the body follows. And once Sherman got going, we just didn’t play well.”

Sherman was up 28-12 at halftime, and that theme of dominance would carry through the second half. Horizon turned the ball over 21 times, a number unheard of throughout their season, and simply couldn’t answer the Huskies play.

Friday’s loss marked the end of the road for the Hawks, and while it may not have been the best note to end on, coach Lingel looks back on the season, and towards the future, with pride, gratitude and hope.

“I’m thankful for the bond that we established and enjoyed,” said Lingel. “Pulling together as a team and caring for one another through this experience. Also being able to have Alex Petshow come back and finish his senior year playing basketball with us was pretty special. I thank the Lord for allowing us this opportunity to play together and do well.”

Horizon ends the season with a 19-8 overall record (including playoffs) and as champions of the Big Sky League. They have four graduating seniors: Brown, Holste, Johnston and Petshow. The remaining eight players are a mix of sophomores and freshmen, indicating that the Hawks will have a strong, experienced team for the next few years.

“Anytime you get young players to experience districts and feel what it’s like to be a champion and have a winning season, that helps them understand what it takes,” said Lingel. “They’ll be able to take this experience and over the next few years be more confident going into playoffs — both district and state.”

While the basketball year concludes, Horizon looks to the coming spring for more athletic endeavors.

When the snow finally melts and the sunshine returns, the Hawks will be out in full force, and I’ll be ready to report.

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