By David Bashore
Herald sports reporter
Umatilla Ninety games in three days highlighted the summer basketball tournament held at Umatilla High School from Friday through Sunday.
Hermiston took the boys' team championship, going undefeated and routing Pendleton in the final.
La Grande polished off Umatilla in the final girls game of the tournament, handing the Vikings their only loss of the three-day extravaganza.
The tournament featured teams from all grade and classification levels, all the way from Hermiston and Pendleton whose teams were comprised of roughly half varsity and half junior varsity players down to varsity teams from Helix and Ione, as well as some incoming freshman squads.
"This tournament is good to get a lot of young players some playing time and experience," Hermiston head coach Larry Usher said. "I don't put any stock in wins or losses because it's not full varsity squads."
The tournament, and the summer league also hosted by Umatilla, allow teams to play younger players as well as work on precision in particular plays that might prove crucial when the games matter in the winter.
Hermiston, for instance, often continually ran the back-door play with someone cutting to the basket, something the Bulldogs only used three or four times a game during the regular season.
"Sometimes it's good playing the smaller schools because you can work on things like the back-door and run it over and over again," Usher said. "It's not because we want to rub it in or anything; we need to work on it."
Looking solid on Sunday were Hermiston guards Ramiro Alatorre and J.J. Ross, as well as forward Sam Grogan. The trio of returning starters will look to steer the Bulldogs into the newly-formed 5A state playoffs in 2006-2007.
Also shining were the Umatilla girls, whose tenacious defense allowed them to head into the last game of the tournament yet to lose a single contest, though they did fall to La Grande in the last tilt.
"We played really well," head coach Michelle Alexander said. "Our shooting was terrible, but if we play good, tough defense we're going to be alright."
Teams from Irrigon, Stanfield, Hermiston and Umatilla participate in the summer league at Umatilla.
Boys games are on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, while girls games are Mondays and Thursdays. All activity begins at 5 p.m each evening.