The Gaston boys' magical second-half run, which included winning 10 of their last 13 games and finishing third in the Northwest League, ended with a 61-31 loss at No. 4-ranked Knappa Thursday night, Feb. 20, at Knappa High School.
"I'm just amazed by these kids," first year Gaston head coach Rick Hoerner said. "I don't think there are a lot of teams that would fall to 2-9 with a new coach, and continue to believe enough to turn it around. I think that really speaks to their character."
The Greyhounds earned their game with Knappa by way of a 52-38 home win over Nestucca in the league playoffs' opening round Wednesday, Feb. 19. Hoerner however said he knew they were up against it when traveling to play the Loggers, and ultimately said they were just beaten by a better team.
"We're just not as good as them and a lot of things would have to go right for us to beat them," Hoerner said.
With a packed crowd at Knappa High, Hoerner said his team was a bit nervous to start and got behind by as many as 22 early, but battled back to pull within 12 at the half. Yet against a team that boasts guards bigger than the bulk of Gaston's team, the coach said it was really just too much to ask of his kids to combat a team of that stature.
"They're just so big and physical, there's just not a whole lot we can do," he said. "I don't think either team got in the bonus all night, so it was a physically officiated game, which plays into their strength. And they're just really good."
Despite the loss, Hoerner couldn't have been more proud of his team.
"They just bought-in, did all the right things and gave themselves a chance," Hoerner said. "Knappa and Columbia Christian are just better than we are, but these kids just impressed me as young men. I've never seen a team rally like they did and I'm really proud of them."
The Greyhounds will lose two of their best players — Getnet Gottschalk and Cody Candau — to graduation, but with returning forward Linus Heathershaw still in the mix, along with three returning sophomores, Hoerner believes Gaston will again be competitive next season as the coach continues to work on building something special at Gaston High.
"Losing Get and Cody is huge, but I expect Linus to be one of the best players in the district next year," the coach said. "We're going to have to get our three sophomores ready to step into some bigger roles and we only had one freshman come out this year, so it's a process, but I'm in this for the long haul and I'm excited for it."
Gaston will play in the league tournament's third place game against No. 6-ranked City Christian this Saturday, Feb. 22, at Vernonia High School.
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