Horizon Christian overcomes nerves, Burns to win tourney opener
Boys basketball: The Hawks, playing at the state event for the first time, notch a 57-40 victory
SALEM - No one could blame the Horizon Christian High School boys basketball team for being a little nervous.
Or for being a little overwhelmed, or apprehensive, or, well, you get it.
But the Hawks didn't let any of that effect them at all.
Horizon Christian, the second-year Tualatin school playing in its first-ever Class 3A state tournament game, rolled to a 57-40 win over Burns in a quarterfinal game played last Thursday at Willamette University.
'Some of us had never even heard of the state tournament before, so this is a huge win for us,' Horizon Christian junior Andrew Bristol said. 'We had a little bit of nervousness before the game. The whole school is here - and their families.'
Burns, the Eastern Oregon League champion, fell to 16-10 on the season with the loss. Horizon Christian, which won the West Valley League title in its first year competing in the league, improved to 26-2 on the season with the victory and advanced to the state tournament semifinals.
'This is very big for us,' said Horizon Christian senior guard Beau Mendezona, who scored a game-high 18 points and dished out nine assists in the win. 'Now we move on to the next game. We're taking it one at a time.'
The Hawks got off to a flying start in the quarterfinal contest. They jumped to a quick 13-4 lead following a short-range jumper by senior center Nick Gowen coming with 2 minutes and 45 seconds left in the first quarter.
But the Hilanders rallied to cut the lead to 16-13 at the end of the period. Burns got even closer in the second quarter, trimming the margin to 21-20 on a three-pointer by Drew Heinz with 3:21 left in the period. Horizon Christian, even with Mendezona sinking his third three-pointer of the first half, held just a two-point lead at halftime at 24-22.
However, the Hawks began to take over in the third quarter. Sophomore C.J. Mitchell and junior Josh Platt each sank three-point baskets in the quarter and sophomore Cole Houston added a pair of hoops as Horizon Christian pushed the margin to 38-30 going into the final stanza.
That's where the Hawks pulled away. Horizon Christian, with Mendezona scoring six points, opened the fourth quarter with an 11-3 run, upping the lead to 49-33 with 4:07 left to play in the contest.
Mitchell would score four straight points later in the quarter, giving the Hawks their biggest lead of the game, at 56-37, with 1:19 left to play. From there Horizon Christian cruised to the 57-40 victory.
'We had a lot of adrenaline and kept our poise,' Bristol said. 'We tried to play our best.'
'We were really nervous in the first half, but we came back in the second half and played how we usually play,' Mendezona said.
Mendezona sank four three-point baskets on his way to scoring 18 points. He also had four steals and a pair of blocked shots
Mitchell added 11 points, with six of those coming in the fourth quarter. Gowen scored seven points and he pulled down a game-high 12 rebounds. Bristol had nine points, seven rebounds, two assists and two steals. He also had a strong game on the defensive end of the court.
'People say I'm big, but I'm not,' said the 6-foot-1 Bristol. 'So I'm more aggressive.'
'Andrew is unselfish and a very good player,' Horizon Christian coach Dave Brown said. 'He's our best defender.'
Horizon Christian, as a team, made 20 of 41 shots from the field and 11 of 18 free throws. Burns made 16 of 45 shots from the field. The Hilanders made just seven of their 22 shots from the field in the second half.
'We played better defense in the second half,' Brown said. 'That's typical for us.'
Tommy Ghost Dog led Burns with 11 points.