Ten months ago, the Hanford Falcons endured a gut-wrenching, season-ending district loss to Southridge after taking what seemed like a commanding lead early in the game.
Friday on their home court, the Falcons again took a double-digit lead into the second quarter, and again the Suns stormed back and even led at halftime.
Would history repeat itself in Richland?
The answer came back loud and clear from the Hanford seniors: Not on our watch.
Joe Douglas and Jalen Watson anchored a strong inside-outside effort for the Falcons in a 73-64 win over Southridge, combining for 36 points and providing the leadership the team needed to close out its Mid-Columbia Conference opener at home.
“It was an eye-opener. We thought we were the better team,” Douglas said after leading Hanford with 20 points and seven rebounds. “The seniors weren’t going to let (the district loss) happen again.”
Watson played an important part as the Falcons got the lead back in the third quarter. His 3-pointer from the right wing with 4:18 left gave Hanford a 39-38 lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
Watson’s six steals helped set the tone for the defense, too. He picked a Southridge guard of the ball at midcourt and raced to the other end for a layin, picking up a foul and converting the and-1 to highlight a 14-0 run that made it 50-38 with 2:32 left in the third.
“It’s just good to get our first league win,” he said. “Last year we lacked the ability to be poised in the fourth quarter, but this year we’ve got a strong senior group. And we’re hungry.”
So was Southridge senior guard Nick Haberling, who put on a scoring clinic with a game-high 29 points. He scored 10 points during an 18-4 run to start the second quarter, giving the Suns their first lead at 23-20.
He kept things exciting until the end, getting four steals in the fourth quarter and scoring 10 points to cut the Hanford lead to 67-61 with 1:36 left.
“I wasn’t expecting them to play me so aggressively at the start,” Haberling said. “I saw a lot of pluses. We just had too many turnovers at the beginning.”
Falcons coach Paul Mayer had some advice for his players as far as guarding Haberling.
“I believe my last words to them were, ‘I told them we can’t let him shoot,’ ” Mayer said.
Mayer also liked what he saw from his seniors and was thrilled with a couple of clutch performances off the bench from senior guard Matt Jones and sophomore guard Brady Heid.
Jones scored five of his seven points in the first quarter, including a 3-pointer from the left wing to highlight a 14-3 run.
Heid hit just one bucket, but it was a big one. He came in during a Hanford run and nailed a 3-pointer from the top of the key after a Douglas steal to make it 50-38.
“That was a big lift from those two,” Mayer said. “We have a solid set of guards, one of the best we’ve ever had here.”
SOUTHRIDGE — Molt 5, Mazzei 14, Vorheis 9, Nick Haberling 29, Schafer 4, Mandell, Getchell, Lopia 2, Cross. Totals 22-51 12-19 64.
HANFORD — Sutey 10, DeVine 12, Jalen Watson 16, Joe Douglas 20, Dobken 5, Mickelson, K.Watson, Jones 7, Heid 3. Totals 22-45 24-41 73.
Southridge 5 26 13 20 — 64
Hanford 16 13 26 18 — 73
Highlights — Rebounds: S 25 (Vorheis 6), H 27 (Douglas 7); 3-pointers: S 8 (Haberling 4, Mazzei 2, Molt 2), H 5 (J.Watson 2, Sutey, Jones, Heid); Turnovers: S 18, H 14; Steals: S 9 (Haberling 4), H 12 (J.Watson 6).