Originally published December 16, 2017 at midnight, updated December 16, 2017 at midnight
The HRV boys basketball team headed into its home matchup Tuesday night against Gresham fresh off a Madras Tournament championship, where they dominated La Grande and Redmond.
The two wins broke the Eagles’ two-game losing streak, though during that streak, they only lost by a combined total of seven points.
The Eagles had chances to win those games, but were unable to sustain leads and get over the hump of staying composed late in the games.
However, on Tuesday night the boys were finally able to close out a tight game and beat Gresham by a score of 69-68, to improve to 4-2 on the season. The Eagles are currently ranked 10th in 5A OSAA standings and are on a three-game winning streak.
From tip-off, this game seemed to be HRV’s for the taking.
The boys opened the game versus Gresham on a 5-0 run. Junior guard Carson Flores hit the first field goal as he came off an off-ball screen and popped up to the top of the key, knocking down the catch-and-shoot three-point shot.
Within the first three minutes of this game, the Eagles had gone to the line twice, knocked down a three-point shot and forced two turnovers; this sequence got the home crowd into it. The Eagles also had the 7-4 lead halfway through the first quarter.
The Eagles offensively continued to take advantage of off-ball screens and reading the defense to get wide open shots throughout the first half.
When Gresham played less aggressive off a screen, it allowed the Eagle shooter to get open looks from three and they were knocking them down when they put the shots up.
Once Gresham decided they didn’t want to get in a shoot-out with the Eagles, they began playing aggressive and made sure that off screens, they did not allow any shots to go up.
But that opened driving opportunities for the Eagles and they took advantage of the aggressive defense by putting the ball on the floor and drawing fouls in the lane to get to the line.
The Eagles were up 38-32 after the first two quarters, and even though they were only up by six, it felt like the boys had full control of this game. They were led in the first half by not only aggressive, but smart play on both ends of the floor.
But like their two losses on the season, HRV was unable to sustain their lead and in the third quarter, things took a turn for the worse.
The Eagles opened the second half with three straight turnovers and Gresham was able to cash in on the other end, going on an 8-0 run to take the 40-38 lead.
Senior wing Jonah Tactay was able to stop the bleeding a bit after he had made a layup to tie things up at 40, but HRV continued to turn the ball over and Gresham was converting HRV turnovers into buckets on offense.
Three turnovers later and Gresham, who went on a 12-2 run to open the second half, led the Eagles 44-40.
After the sixth turnover of the third quarter, Tactay showed a sign of life HRV desperately needed.
The Eagles got a much needed stop and pushed the ball up court to Tactay, who took it coast-to-coast for the layup.
However, the turnovers continued to plague the Eagles in the third and after a seventh turnover by HRV, Gresham hit a three to go up 49-44.
And with six seconds left, after the Eagles hit a few free throws to go down 51-45, Gresham went down and hit a mid-range shot at the buzzer to go up 53-45.
A six-point lead at the start of the third turned into a 14-point swing for Gresham.
Both teams continued to trade buckets in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter, but if the Eagles were going to come back they needed to either stop them or get some threes.
Down 58-49, senior forward Trenton Hough knocked down a three from the right wing after the Eagles had advanced the ball up court on a Gresham bucket.
Gresham went down and responded with a layup, but the Eagles answered with a three-point play the old fashion way as senior forward Erik Siekkinen went up and made a layup, getting fouled while doing so; he was awarded a free throw and knocked it down. The Eagles were now down 60-55 halfway through the fourth and had their home crowd back into this game.
After a few minutes of back and forth basketball, the Eagles were still down by five with two minutes remaining in the game.
The first possession under the two-minute mark for the Eagles was a good one as they stopped Gresham defensively, went down court and found Mears, who was wide-open at the wing for a three-point shot, but the ball came up just short and into the hands of a Gresham player.
However, Gresham was unable to take advantage of HRV’s miss opportunity, and on the other end Tactay found an opening up court to take the ball off the dribble to the lane, drawing a foul.
Tactay made both free throws to make it a possession game with 1:23 left, 68-65 Gresham.
HRV came out after Tactay’s free throws in a press and continued to put pressure on Gresham’s ball handlers up court. Eventually, Siekkinen came up with a steal and Head Coach Christopher Dirks quickly called a timeout with 25 seconds left down 68-67.
During the timeout, the HRV student section begins their cheer, “HRV fight, fight, fight!” The Eagles came out of the timeout moving the ball around, trying to set up a shot for Flores, but with nothing open, they got the ball out to Mears, who made something out of nothing.
Mears, with an isolation on his defender, drives the lane and with the entire Gresham team swarming onto the paint to surround him, he goes up for the acrobatic layup and finishes at the rim to put the Eagles up 69-68 with 4.2 seconds left.
The crowd erupted. Gresham, with one final timeout remaining, used it to set up one final play, but they would have had to go the length of the court if they wanted to get a good look.
With 4.2 seconds left, the ball was inbounded and advanced up court. However, pressure from the Eagles defense was there every step of the way and Gresham had to throw up a wild shot from three that missed the rim. HRV escaped with the 69-68 win over Gresham.
“After the game, the message was good teams find a way to win,” said Dirks. “There were a few times in the fourth quarter where it would have been easy to fold and play for the next game, but we wanted that game.”
And the boys showed just that as they continued to fight until that final buzzer went off in the fourth.
Statistic leaders against Gresham: Erik Siekkinen, 15 points, seven rebounds and one steal. Jonah Tactay, 12 points, two assists and one steal. JJ Mears, 11 points, five assists and two steals. Carson Flores, 10 points and three rebounds. Dakota Kurahara, eight points, four rebounds and one assist.
The boys would then put their winning streak on the line Thursday night against Ridgeview, a team heading into this game 1-6 with their most recent loss coming to The Dalles by a score of 62-46.
On Thursday night the Eagles found themselves down by double digits early.
In the second half, the Eagles fought their way back into this game and brought it within a one possession game, but Ridgeview was able to hang on to beat the Eagles by a score of 71-69; ending HRV’s three-game winning streak.