The HRV boys basketball team went into last Friday’s matchup on the road versus Pendleton on a four-game losing streak, including a winless start to Columbia River Conference play after the first three league games.
“After falling to all three conference teams with leads late to open CRC play, I really tried to get the guys to focus on approaching basketball like a winner,” said Head Coach Christopher Dirks. “Doing all the little things that winners do. Making sure your gear is ready the night before, get to school on time, cheer for teammates during games and even in practice, all the things to support what we do on the court. This team is talented enough to compete, and we saw that in our first three games.”
But competing was only half the battle and Dirks realized that, which led him to getting his team to begin focus on winning — and it paid off.
On Friday night, the boys went to Pendleton and beat the Buckaroos, who were 3-0 in league play heading into this matchup, by a final score of 62-58.
“I think Friday was what we can do when we approach basketball like winners,” said Dirks. “Go into a game choosing winning. Knowing that if we all do what we are supposed to do, we can do some damage.”
And there was no greater damage dealt to Pendleton on Friday night then Senior guard JJ Mears’ 23 points.
Mears was 4-8 from the field, including 3-4 from beyond the arc. But the majority of his points would sparingly come at the free throw line.
If you’ve never been there, the gym in Pendleton is a tough environment to play in and when you’re on the opposing team at the free throw line, those fans will not let you feel comfortable for one second. But Mears was able to keep his focus and went on to knock down 12-14 free throws against Pendleton.
Mears also had a team-high in steals with three and two assists.
Three more Eagles would score in double digits versus Pendleton: Jonah Tactay, Dakota Kurahara and Erik Siekkinen.
Tactay ended the night with 10 points, seven rebounds and two steals.
Kurahara and Siekkinen would also put up 10 points each. Kurahara added eight rebounds to his final stat line while Siekkinen was perfect on the night from the field as he went 4-4.
After starting 0-3 in conference and then having to travel to the number one seed’s home gym following a tough loss on the road to The Dalles earlier last week, the Eagles were faced with a tough situation: to either show some heart or roll over.
And going into Pendleton and beating the Buckaroos showed Dirks this team has heart. “It's not easy to lose three games the way that we did and then come out, after a three-hour bus ride, and take down the three-time CRC champs on their court. They really showed me that they are not going to roll over. What they did was not easy, and it shows that they aren't done fighting to prove that they should be at the top of this conference, not the bottom.”
The boys were on the road in Hermiston on Tuesday, Feb. 6 for a matchup with the Bulldogs (results unavailable at press time).
The week will end with a home game for the boys on Friday, Feb. 9 against The Dalles. The boys are scheduled to tip-off at 7 p.m. and will follow the HRV girls matchup with The Dalles at 5:30 p.m.