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Hawk soar past Valley Catholic

Boys basketball: Horizon Christian stays unbeaten in league play with its 49-35 victory
by: JAIME VALDEZ, NO YOU DON’T — Horizon Christian senior Nick Gowen (right) blocks a shot by Valley Catholic’s Ken Kassel in Monday’s game. The Hawks scored a 49-35 victory.

BEAVERTON - The West Valley League has a new team to beat in boys basketball.

And it's a new team to the league altogether.

Behind a balanced attack, Horizon Christian remained undefeated in league play by defeating defending Class 3A state champion Valley Catholic 49-35 on Monday. With the win at Valley Catholic High School, the Hawks pushed their streak to eight straight, stayed atop the league standings at 5-0 and improved to 12-1 overall.

After playing an independent schedule in the school's first year, Horizon Christian moved into the West Valley League this year - and straight to the top.

'A lot of people don't know about us,' said senior guard Beau Mendezona. 'We work together as a team really well. We were pretty confident coming in that, if we played together, we could come out and get the win.'

That's about all the Hawks have done this season, making those who didn't know them take notice. Horizon Christian went from receiving a lone vote in the Dec. 17 Class 3A coaches poll, to a No. 5 ranking in Tuesday's poll.

'The mission of our school is to have excellence in academics and athletics,' said coach Dave Brown, who is also Horizon Christian's athletic director. 'The kids play hard, play defense and share the ball. That makes it fun to coach.'

Winning makes that all the more enjoyable. After starting the season 4-0, the Hawks lost 55-53 to No. 8-ranked Creswell on Dec. 12 in their final league tune-up and haven't been beaten since. They began league play with a win over No. 9-ranked Westside Christian then beat last year's league runner-up Dayton, ranked No. 7, on the road.

'I thought we'd do well,' said Brown, noting the team returned in full and added two transfers after going 11-8 in an independent schedule in 2006-07. 'We're not a surprise anymore. Everyone realizes we have a good team. I told them, now the target is on our back.'

It was on the Valiants, which won the state title last season but returned one starter and fell to 2-3 in league play (7-7 overall).

Horizon Christian never trailed in earning its fifth double-digit league win in as many games.

'After playing an independent schedule, we didn't know what to expect,' senior center Nick Gowen said. 'We put a lot more effort into our games because they mean something now.'

Gowen's 3-point play opened the game's scoring and got the Hawks going. Five different players scored in the first quarter as Horizon Christian jumped out to a 15-7 lead behind 3-pointers from sophomore C.J. Mitchell and junior Josh Platt.

'We don't really have a main scorer,' Gowen said. 'Just five really good players. It's been a lot of fun.'

Valley Catholic got as close as 19-15 with three minutes, five seconds left in the second quarter. But the Hawks went on a 9-0 run into halftime starting when sophomore Cole Houston drained a 3-pointer from the top of the arc.

Houston then found junior forward Andrew Bristol, a transfer from Lake Oswego High School, inside for a short shot off an inbounds pass. Gowen added a putback and capped the half with an all-out effort, chasing down a loose ball and whipping a behind the back save to Mendezona as he was falling out of bounds. Mendezona, a transfer from Tualatin High School, promptly hit the jumper just before the halftime buzzer for a 28-15 lead.

'They're such a good group,' Brown said. 'They're so willing to play as a team. Nobody cares who gets the points.'

Horizon Christian pulled away in the second half as Mitchell scored nine points to finish with a game-high 12. The points were spread out with Gowen scoring 10, Mendezona 9, Bristol 7, Houston 6 and Platt 5.

Mendezona and Houston each buried 3-pointers and Mitchell's free throw after being fouled on a layin gave the Hawks a 42-24 lead.

The Valiants tried to respond on Kent Kassel's three-point play with 2:31 left in the third quarter. But Valley Catholic completed a 30 percent (13 of 43) night from the floor by making two of its eight shots in the fourth quarter. The Valiants were 2 of 15 on 3-point attempts in the game, while Horizon Christian was 5 of 13.

The Hawks hosted Willamina on Wednesday (results not available as of the Times' press deadline) and travel to Amity to take on the No. 4-ranked Warriors (11-2 overall, 4-1 in league) on Friday.

'That will be a huge test for us,' Brown said.