HERMISTON — After the Hermiston girls basketball team’s 40-29 loss to open the season Wednesday, Nov. 29, they asked head coach Juan Rodriguez for a tough practice the following day.
The Bulldogs got just that and it showed on the court in their home opener on Friday. Despite the 55-46 loss at the hands of Wilsonville at the Dawg House, Hermiston efforts multiplied.
“This game is 10 times better than the one we played on Wednesday,” Rodriguez said. “We got out on the floor and ran, we played great defense. Wilsonville is a good team and they hit good shots and they put us in bad situations.”
The Bulldogs (0-2) didn’t have to climb their way back up the scoreboard for the entire 32 minutes.
Hermiston opened the game with a 15-4 lead after the first quarter. The Bulldogs held the Wildcats (1-0) scoreless until they went to the free-throw line three minutes into the game. It was at the charity stripe that Wilsonville proved most effective, making 21-of-29 attempts when it was all said and done.
The Bulldogs managed to hold on to their lead until the Wildcats became a threat halfway through the second quarter. A strong defensive effort from Hermiston kept Wilsonville’s offense at bay until some sloppy mistakes gave the Wildcats their chance to top the scoreboard.
A 14-4 run before halftime put Wilsonville up 25-23 after two quarters of play. The Wildcats used that momentum as they entered the third quarter and were up by as much as 10 points before Hermiston sophomore Jazlyn Romero hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to end the third quarter and cut the Bulldogs’ deficit to 40-33.
Again Romero proved to be an asset following up her team-leading 12-point performance Wednesday with nine points on Friday. This time around it was junior Jordan Thomas who had a team-high 12 points, and senior Maddy Juul followed with 10 points.
“I’m pretty blessed, and I have told the girls this, that we have the team makeup to make a pretty deep run,” Rodriguez said.
The talented core group of girls — and the other two starters, juniors Madison Wilson and Sydney Stefani — were pushing the pace of the game and playing aggressive on both sides of the court. But with Juul nursing a knee injury and Thomas’ presence in the paint putting her in foul trouble, Hermiston looked to its young bench to help with the load. Unfortunately, it was too heavy.
“I think what hurt us is when we brought off girls off the bench, they have low confidence right now,” Rodriguez said. “So what we just talked about was having that confidence. They are on the team for a reason and when they come in they have to provide, they have to be a positive for us and I think for the most part, most of those girls understand that.”
The team’s youth showed when Thomas was subbed out after tallying her fourth foul shortly after the third quarter started. The 6-foot 3-inch forward shut Wilsonville down in the low post, and without Thomas’ presence the Wildcats, at times, easily made their way to the basket.
But even with another quick turnaround tomorrow, Rodriguez is confident the girls will continue to improve.
“I’m just happy that we competed and we played hard and that’s kind of what I want,” he said. “Our philosphy is up-tempo, we’re going to press and we’re going to get in the passing lane. While the losing is not ideal, I was actually kind of happy with the way they played.”
The Hermiston Holiday Tournament continues with the Bulldogs facing the Lewiston Bengals. The school out of Idaho has already had a few games under its belt, as its season started mid-November.