Defense is key to Hawk victories

Horizon Christian’s non-league boys basketball schedule this season includes competition against schools from five different enrollment classifications. Three games into that schedule, one thing has remained constant: the Hawk defense.

Horizon improved its record to 3-0 Wednesday with a 68-48 road win at Class 3A Riverside in Boardman. The Hawks limited the Pirates to 18 first-half points en route to a 44-18 lead before the break.

Riverside entered the game with a 3-0 record and was coming off a 22-3 season in 2011-12. But the Pirates hadn’t seen the level of pressure defense that Horizon brings to the court. The Hawks forced 21 first-half turnovers with a combination of presses and half-court defensive looks. Guards Ryan Aldrich and Micah Engel were in control on the perimeter, and Jake Wells was his usual shot-altering presence inside.

Offensively, the Hawks found the open man against Riverside’s defense, with Matt Totaro the main beneficiary. The 6-5 junior had a season-high 26 points, including 19 in the first half.

Part of Totaro’s offensive success was because of his ability to take advantage of space created by Riverside’s decision to double-team the 6-7 Wells. When things got bottled up near the basket, sophomores Wes Johnson and Jared Davis capitalized with a couple of three-pointers apiece.

Horizon was scheduled to play 4:30 p.m. Friday against its first Class 1A competition this season at the Southwest Christian Tournament in Beaverton (results unavailable at presstime). Both boys and girls teams were to play Jewell in first-round matchups of the two-day tourney. The girls’ game was set for 3 p.m.; the boys contest at 4:30 p.m. The third-place and championship games are Saturday.

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Horizon’s girls team lost Wednesday at Riverside, 50-12. The young Hawk team struggled with the Pirates’ defensive pressure throughout the game and is now 1-2 this season.

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