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Hawks Soar to Gold


Horizon Christian shuts down Blanchet Catholic to claim its third state championship

by: MILES VANCE - SENIOR STARS -- Horizon Christian senior Michael Loomis holds the state championship trophy and senior Calvin Anderson holds up the game ball following the win over Blanchet. COOS BAY — It was a day for defense.

And thanks to Horizon Christian’s unparalleled commitment to defense, it was also a day for a championship.

The top-ranked Hawks boys basketball team, matched up against No. 3 Blanchet in Saturday’s Class 3A state championship game at Marshfield High School, played defense like nobody’s business Saturday night, pitching a second-quarter shutout against the Cavaliers, holding Blanchet to just eight first-half points, and riding that big “D” to a dominating 49-26 victory.

The win marked Horizon Christian’s third Class 3A state title in the past four years, erased the sting of last year’s 58-35 title-game loss to Dayton, and marked Oregon’s best championship-game defensive effort since Oakland held Knappa to 25 points back in 2000’s Class 2A finale.

by: MILES VANCE - LET'S HEAR SOME NOISE -- Horizon Christian sophomore guard Trent Pihas rallies the crowd during the Hawks' Class 3A state championship game against Blanchet Catholic. Horizon won 49-26.“I feel great,” said Horizon Christian senior Michael Loomis, a unanimous first-team all-tournament selection who led all scorers with 23 points in the finale. “To do it with these guys — I love these guys — I can’t tell you how great a group this is.”

“It’s just been spectacular,” said HC senior Calvin Anderson, another first-team, all-tournament pick who had nine points, six rebounds and two steals in the win. “I knew it was coming, but there’s nothing more I wanted to go out on.”

“I can’t even explain this right now,” added Hawk sophomore point guard Trent Pihas, who finished with 12 points in the title game. “I have so many emotions — I’m just feeling the love right now.”

HC’s win capped its 2012-13 season — which included a shared West Valley League title with Dayton — with an overall record of 26-2. Blanchet, meanwhile, ended its year at 27-5 after winning the Pac-West North Conference division championship.

Getting there wasn’t easy though, not against a Blanchet team that rolled past No. 2 Valley Catholic impressively in its tournament semifinal and was led by 6-foot-8 senior post Brent Counts. Horizon started fast with back-to-back three-pointers from Pihas and Loomis on their first two possessions to lead 6-0, then getting another Loomis bomb to extend its lead to 9-2 with 4 minutes, 22 seconds left in the opening quarter.

Counts began to make his presence felt after that, however, scoring in the lane to make it 9-4, blocking an Anderson shot, then coming back with two minutes left in the quarter to score from the baseline and cut the Hawks’ lead to 9-6.

by: MILES VANCE - IN CHARGE -- Horizon Christian High School head coach Dave Brown directs traffic during the Hawks' state title game with Blanchet. Blanchet’s Kyle Ruiz then added two free throws with 1:25 to go in the period to make it 9-8.

The Cavaliers didn’t know it, but those two free throws marked their team’s last scoring for a very, very long time. Blanchet didn’t score again in the first quarter, then suffered through a nightmarish second period that saw the Hawks hold the Cavaliers scoreless on 0-for-7 shooting from the field while also forcing five turnovers.

“Our defense is what sparks the team,” said Horizon Christian junior Connor Marleau. “It’s what ignites us. It was a blast.”

“We pushed, played defense the whole entire year and we stopped teams,” added junior Parker Belan. “It’s just amazing that we can play defense like that.”

Offensively, the Hawks built their lead to 20-8 at the half, getting another Loomis three-pointer, two free throws each by Anderson and Isaiah Hall, and another foul shot from Marleau.

It got worse for Blanchet before it got better, too. The Hawks tacked on an 8-0 run in the first 3:05 of the third quarter to extend their lead to 28-8, with Loomis taking a Pihas pass and scoring on the fast break, Anderson drilling a three-pointer from the left side, Pihas making one foul shot, and Loomis then hitting a running fall-away jumper outside the key for that 28-8 lead with 4:55 left in the third quarter.

by: MILES VANCE - THE CHAMPS ARE HERE -- The Horizon Christian High School boys basketball players and coaches gather with the state championship trophy and bracket following the Hawks' title-game win over Blanchet. And Blanchet’s troubles were bigger than just Horizon Christian’s defense. In a 10-second span following Loomis’ last hoop, both Brent Counts and Patrick Counts picked up their fourth fouls and were forced to leave the game. For all intents and purposes, Blanchet’s slim hopes of victory left with them, too.

Blanchet’s Ruiz finally ended his team’s long scoreless streak when he hit a pair of free throws with 4:27 remaining in the third quarter to make it 28-10, but Horizon answered with an 8-0 run over the final 3:15 of the period to extend the Hawks lead to 36-10. Pihas had five of those points, including a three-pointer.

In total, Horizon Christian’s defense held Blanchet without a point for 12:58, a span stretching from Ruiz’s two foul shots at the end of the first quarter to his next set of free throws midway through the third.

“We focused on the defensive end like we did early in the season and it showed,” Loomis said. “We held them to eight points in the first half, 26 on the game — that’s incredible for us to do to such a great team.”

“Our defense was something else. I’m so proud of our guys,” Anderson said. “The last couple games, we really stepped up on the defensive side and that’s what won us the game.”

Blanchet opened the fourth quarter on a 5-0 run that included two Brent Counts hoops to bring the Cavaliers within 36-18, but Blanchet got no closer the rest of the way and saw Brent Counts, Patrick Counts and Ruiz all foul out in the fourth.

Further, Horizon hit 13-of-16 foul shots in the final 6:01 to pull away.

And then it was time to celebrate their third win in four years, and coach Dave Brown’s sixth straight trip to the Class 3A state championship game.

“To do it with these guys — they battled throughout the season and finally got the win — I can’t be more proud of these guys,” Loomis said. “That’s cool to go out on that kind of note. It really shows that we’re the No. 1 team.”

“Ever since we lost, we wanted to come back and prove the point that we’re the best team in the state, and tonight, I think we proved it,” Pihas said.

“It was just amazing tonight. I can’t tell you how long I’ve been dreaming of it” Anderson said. “I’ve been a part of it all four years, but this is my biggest part ever.’

“I’ll remember all of it,” Belan said. “We’re just a family out there. We’re a family and we play together.”