By David Bashore
Herald sports editor
Hermiston freshman phenom Shoni Schimmel headlined three Bulldog basketball players named to the 5A classification's All-State teams, which were released Wednesday.
The All-State squads were voted on by the coaches within the classification.
Schimmel, according to Hermiston head coach Mike Royer, is the first Bulldog player to earn First Team All-State honors.
For the freshman point guard, who already had been named the Intermountain Conference Player of the Year, First Team All-IMC, the Hermiston Herald Area Player of the Year, the Hermiston Herald's First Team All-Area, and First Team All-Tournament (5A State Championships), it punctuates a breakout season which caught the eyes of basketball fans around the state, and may have grabbed the attention of a number of NCAA Division I programs.
It also marks the progress Schimmel has made since joining Hermiston's program, despite many around the area already knowing she had the kind of athletic talent that precious few possess.
"Being new to the team, (Schimmel) had some adjustments to make, getting used to her new teammates and what they could do," Royer said. "There was a while when everyone just needed to get to know each other, but she made progress throughout the year."
Royer thought it no surprise that Schimmel who led the IMC in scoring, assists and steals was named as an First Team All-State selection, but did admit that Hermiston reaching the championship site for the first time in five years probably helped her case in the eyes of coaches who might not have otherwise gotten to see her play.
Getting there was enough to give her a stage to show her wares, but it was Schimmel's play at that site where she led in scoring, assists, and shot blocks and helped Hermiston finish in fourth place to earn its first-ever basketball trophy that put her over the top.
"She played well in the IMC, and the coaches there knew about her," Royer said. "But the coaches in the western part of the state don't get to see (IMC play) very much, so getting to the state tournament and having those coaches be able to see her probably helped (her cause)."
Joining Schimmel in receiving girls' basketball 5A All State recognition was senior wing Sarau Morrison, whose explosiveness off the dribble helped her finish as one of the top scorers in the conference, and one of the top scorers in the state championship round.
Morrison and Schimmel are the first Hermiston teammates to be given All-State accolades in the same season, and are the third and fourth Hermiston players to receive girls basketball All-State honors, according to Royer.
Schimmel might have been a virtual slam dunk to receive some sort of statewide honor, but Royer seemed happy for Morrison that she also received the attention and acclaim that she earned with her on-court play.
"I don't think Shoni getting first team was a huge surprise," Royer said. "I was hoping that Sarau might get on the second team, but (nonetheless) she deserves to be recognized as well."
Morrison joins her older sister Aundrea in the annals as an All-State basketball performer from Hermiston; Alissa Edwards is the other, according to Royer.
Schimmel will be back next season in hopes of leading Hermiston deeper into the playoffs in her sophomore season.
Morrison, however, intends to hang up her basketball shoes and head to Spokane Community College in order to further her education; she says plans to study cosmetology.
On the boys' All-State front, Hermiston senior point guard and captain Ramiro Alatorre was named as an honorable mention All-State selection after a season which saw Hermiston finish 20-5 and in second place out of the IMC.
He is the first boys' basketball All-State selection since Paul Carollo was a third-team All-State honoree in the 2004-05 basketball season.
Alatorre had two 30-plus point games over the course of the season and was one of the leading scorers in the conference.
The senior missed three games due to suspension late in the season, but returned to lead the Bulldogs within a whisker of upsetting undefeated and eventual state champions North Eugene on their home floor in the first round of the 5A state playoffs.
Alatorre is still undecided on where he intends to go to college, though basketball certainly appears to loom large in his future.
David Bashore can be reached at dbashore @hermistonherald.com