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After winning nine of their last 12 games the Greyhounds play host to Nestucca in this week's league playoffs.

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Gaston's Linus Heathershaw (24) during a boys basketball game against Vernonia at Gaston High School in Gaston, Ore., on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020.It hasn't been easy, but it's been fun — and it isn't over yet.

The Gaston boys basketball team started the year slow. The Greyhounds split their first two games versus Jefferson and Weston-McEwen to start the season, then proceeded to lose eight of their next nine games. But then, beginning with a 47-38 win over Vernonia Jan. 17, the new look Hounds won two of their next three and ultimately nine of 11 en route to third place in the 2A's Northwest League.

"It's been a lot of fun, and to be honest, a bit surprising," Gaston head coach Rick Hoerner said.

Hoerner is in his first year at Gaston after moving to Oregon from New Mexico, where he coached at the Navajo Preparatory School, a college preparatory school located in Farmington, New Mexico that is fully sanctioned by the Navajo Nation. The 55-year-old moved to Oregon in April of 2019 when his wife took a position at Portland State University as director of the Helen Gordon Child and Family Development Center, and it wasn't long after that that he landed at Gaston.

"I talked with Gary (Hedin) about potential positions in the area and he mentioned that their boys job was going to be available," Hoerner said. "And here I am."

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Gaston's Getnet Gottschalk goes up for a shot during the Greyhounds' game against Vernonia Wednesday, Feb. 12, at Gaston High School.Last year's Greyhounds — despite what appeared to be a wealth of talent — finished 13-13 overall and 8-8 in league play. They qualified for the league playoffs and defeated City Christian before falling to Columbia Christian, essentially eliminating them from state playoff consideration. In its wake, the team lost standouts Riley Marshall and Tristan Lund to graduation, along with hard-working big man Theo Barnes, and six seniors overall. Upon his arrival, Hoerner was somewhat aware of last season's results, but deliberately didn't bother acquainting himself with what was gone, choosing rather to focus on what he had going forward.

"I didn't really look at what the team had done last year and purposely didn't want to know much about the team because I wanted to see what we had for myself," the coach said. "Riley has come out and worked out with us a few times since and I was like, 'they lost 13 games with this kid?'"

Yes they did, but that was in the past, and Hoerner was focused on the present and immediate future of the 2019-20 Gaston team — and they've not disappointed.

Since their slow start, it's been all systems go for the Greyhounds who find themselves back in the league playoffs, beginning with a game this Wednesday, Feb. 19, against sixth place Nestucca. Prior to their regular season loss to Neah-Kah-Nie, a game in which Hoerner said they simply didn't shoot it well and the Pirates played inspired on what was their Senior Night, the team had won six straight. They've been led by senior wing Getnet Gottschalk, who's developed into the team's go-to guy, but also through a collective effort by a group of unselfish kids just trying to win games.

"Getnet has been fantastic and especially of late, has been having to do it against teams that are focusing on stopping him," Hoerner said. "But one kid I really want to point out is Cody Candau. I think he got a little playing time last year, but I don't think he had a bunch of varsity experience. He's been really unselfish through this whole thing and has sacrificed personal goals for the betterment of the team."

Hoerner said he's enjoyed his time at Gaston and is looking forward to trying to build something at the school of roughly 250 kids. But that's for later, while now the Greyhounds have a playoff game to think about.

"It's going to be fun," Hoerner said. "Hopefully we can keep it going."

Gaston's league playoff game is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. this Wednesday, Feb. 19, at Gaston High School.


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