Friday, March 16, 2012/lk
All the good teams know how to finish ball games.
Luckily, Horizon Christian has a few closers in tow who are not afraid to take the pressure shots with the game on the line.
The trio of Max Totaro, Sam Anthony and Matt Totaro combined for the final 13 points, as the Hawks erased a two-point, fourth-quarter deficit with a 15-1 run in the final four minutes and 16 seconds to defeat McKenzie 58-46 in the 1A state boy's championship game in Baker City.
And the senior Totaro said there was no way he was going to shy away from one of the biggest moments of his young life.
"For me and Sam, this is it for us," point guard Max Totaro said. "We have nothing to lose so we are going to make all the shots we can make. I am thankful for the team for putting us in the position to come through."
The victory was sweet redemption for a Hawks team that used the naysayers as fuel to their fire.
"Other than playing Sherman in the district championship, this was the only other game we had been the underdog," said Max Totaro, who scored a team-high 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting.
"Our coaches have been telling us all year not to look on oregonlive, but we like looking on there because everyone always doubts us. We get so much bad publicity, probably more than any other team and we use it as motivation. Everyone in this locker room believed we had a chance and that was all we needed. This goes to show that anyone is beatable."
In the second half, Horizon held leads as high as nine points, but led 39-33 after three quarters, as Max Totaro banked in a three-pointer at the buzzer to stop an 8-3 Eagle spurt in the last 3:33 of the third.
McKenzie started the final frame on a 7-4 split with Kendell Reese sinking two free throws to inch his squad to within 43-40 with 5:54 to go.
At the 5:03 mark, Jordan Wiley swished a three-pointer to tie the score at 43-all, and after a Horizon turnover, Will Totten sank a jumper to give the Eagles their first lead, 45-43, since the three-minute mark of the first quarter.
In the last 4:16 of the fourth, Horizon sank 4-of-5 shots and made good on 6-of-9 from the charity stripe, whereas McKenzie found the iron unkind in missing its final eight shots, six from long range, adding 1-for-3 from the line and three turnovers.
"All it started with our defense. They are a good team and we knew they were going to make runs at different points of the game," said Anthony, who scored 16 points. "We needed to withstand those runs and we told ourselves before the game that we were going to fight through it. We just put the pedal to the metal and kept on going and finished this game strong."
In the first half, the Hawks set a ferocious pace to the contest by shooting 10 of 20 from the field, using runs of 16-11 and 9-6 to lead 25-17 at the half. While Horizon was hammering home shot after shot, seniors Anthony and Max Totaro did most of the heavy lifting with 22 points on 9-of-13 from the field.
Wiley and Reece, however, scored 15 of the Eagles' 17 points on a combined 6 of 16 - the rest of the team clanged 1 for 7.
Horizon coach Darrin Lingel was overjoyed with the notion that this program made the leap from fifth place last season to state champions in 2012.
It has been a long, but rewarding journey for the fourth-year coach.
"It is an awesome feeling. We are so excited. This team is amazing," Lingel said. "They stuck together and they played together. We told each other at the start of this tournament that we have to stick together through the thick and through the thin. You could see it on the court when we were down in the fourth quarter that they had to tough it out. They played hard and made the plays to get this win against a very good McKenzie team."