Scottsdale Independent

Horizon uses breakneck speed to defeat Highland with second-half resurgence

Horizon senior Aidyn Albright races up court during the Huskies’ 93-78 win over the Hawks Friday, Jan. 19. (Independent Newsmedia/Josh Martinez)

It may have taken until the second half but once the Horizon High School boys basketball team found its groove, it took off at a blistering speed.

The Huskies (12–6) overcame a 14-point halftime deficit to trounce nonconference opponent Highland High School (7–12) 93–78 on the road Friday, Jan. 19. Horizon handed Highland its ninth consecutive loss.

The style of play Horizon Head Coach Jerry Conner used was the same one he’s used all season: a fast-paced offense with a full-court press defense.

“We say it’s organized chaos,” he said. “The more chaos there is, if we’re organized, then hopefully it’s to our advantage.”

Horizon senior Gabe Zdrale (34) fights for position in the paint during the Huskies’ 93-78 win over the Hawks Friday, Jan. 19. (Independent Newsmedia/Josh Martinez)

Throughout the game, the Huskies played aggressively and shot from 3-point range regularly. It wasn’t until the second half that those shots started to go in more. Overall, Horizon made 11 3-point baskets, seven in the second half.

It was the defensive effort, however, Coach Conner said that improved from the first to second half because the Huskies were “just letting them run free the first half.”

During the halftime break, Horizon senior Gabe Zdrale, who scored a game-high 27 points, said the starters helped lead a team conversation that sparked the second-half push.

Midway through the third quarter, Horizon went on a 15-point run to tie it up at 59. After a close stretch, the Huskies used another 20–4 run over much of the fourth to take control.

Highland Head Coach Derrick Donaldson said the pace and style the Huskies run is unique to that level but that’s still no excuse for allowing them to come back.

“It’s more just us,” he said. “We have to settle down and not let the pressure of that get to us and run our offense and do the things that got us there.”

The Hawks seemed to have a grip on the action early on as Horizon ran the same pace but had a harder time scoring.

As the game wore on, Zdrale said he noticed Highland’s players getting tired and all he could do was smile.

Horizon junior Jared Esquibel (33) passes the ball while Highland guard Braden James (5) applies defensive pressure during the Huskies’ 93-78 win over the Hawks Friday, Jan. 19. (Independent Newsmedia/Josh Martinez)

“We just love that,” he said. “Once we see people getting tired, that’s when we get them in the second half.”

Zdrale led a group of five other Huskies who finished the night with double-digit point totals. Guard JD Feagles followed with 21 while Aidyn Albright chipped in 14.

Forward Carter Coray led the Hawks with 17 while guard Justin Stidhum added in 13, 11 of which came in the first half. Guard Connor Peterson also scored 11 with eight coming in the first half.

Horizon returns to Desert Valley region play next week with three region games against Mountain Ridge, Desert Mountain and O’Connor high schools.

Coach Conner said those games are big for his team since they have a 3–2 record in region play.

Since the victory over Highland was a nonconference game, Coach Conner said his team, particularly the younger players, had to learn from the victory.

“We had a couple of youngsters who hadn’t had a chance to be out there in a tight situation that much and they got a chance to feel it tonight and have a little success with it moving forward,” he said. “That’s big.”