The Umatilla boys basketball team is off to a hot start.
The Vikings improved to 8-1 on Monday with a 64-51 nonleague home win over Heppner.
“Defense is our emphasis,” said Vikings coach Scott Bow, whose team gives up an average of 34 points per game. “Every team we have played, we have held them to double digits below their average. We have to be one of the better defensive teams out there.”
The Mustangs kept pace with the Vikings in the first half, trailing just 26-22 at the half.
“They came out and hit some pretty good shots and got after it,” Bow said.
Umatilla, which has won seven games in a row, took over in the second half, leading by 15 at one point.
Sebastian Garcia had four 3-pointers in the second half and finished with 20 points, six assists and five steals for the Vikings.
“He took after it,” Bow said. “For someone who was face-guarded all night, he played fantastic.”
Andrew Earl added 12 points and four assist, while Trent Durfey had 10 points and seven rebounds.
Trent Carter led the Mustangs with 19 points — 15 of which came in the second half — and 11 rebounds.
The Vikings held Heppner’s 6-foot-10 Justin McAninch to five points. He did have two blocked shots.
“Hats off to our big guys at 6-2 for outworking him,” Bow said.
The Mustangs (5-5) will host Grant Union in their Blue Mountain Conference opener on Friday.
Umatilla will host River View, Wash. (4-2), in a nonleague game at 4:30 p.m. Friday, then will play in the Salem Academy Classic Jan. 3-5.
“That’s a good tournament for us before we start league play,” Bow said.
HEPPNER 51, UMATILLA 41: Sydney Wilson poured in a game-high 22 points, and added five rebounds, three assists and three steals as the Mustangs beat the Vikings in a nonleague game in Umatilla.
The Vikings led 11-9 after the first quarter, but a 23-11 run by Heppner in the second was more than Umatilla could overcome.
Jacee Currin added 15 points and six assists for the Mustangs (6-4), which will open Blue Mountain Conference play Friday against visiting Grant Union.
Freshman Taylor Durfey had 16 points and 10 rebounds for Umatilla (3-7), which will host River View, Wash., on Saturday.