Big-time players make clutch plays when their teams need them most.
Jordan Ramirez hit two free throws with 10.7 seconds left on the clock, and Adrian Mendez stole the ball with 4 seconds remaining to lead Hermiston to a 62-61 Mid-Columbia Conference road victory on Saturday over Southridge.
“The game was crazy,” said Ramirez, who finished with 11 points. “Those (free throws) were must makes. That first one, I thought I air-balled it. The second one, I was like ‘OK, this is easy, we are tied.’”
The win put the Bulldogs (12-4 overall) at 8-4 in MCC play, and third in the conference standings behind Richland (13-0) and Chiawana (9-3). They have clinched a trip to the 3A regional tournament.
“The guys never gave up,” Hermiston coach Casey Arstein said. “Sergio (Mendez) got a huge steal and basket, Jordan hits two free throws, and Adrian, who sat most of the second half, gets the biggest steal of the night. We will take a win on the road. Now, we are just battling for the No. 1 spot. We have to handle our games.”
The Suns (3-14, 2-11) led 37-36 heading into the fourth quarter, and needed a 3-pointer by Donavyn Perry with 1:01 remaining in regulation to send the game into overtime with the score tied at 53-53.
Southridge jumped out to a 57-53 lead to open the extra period, getting baskets by Kody Bruton and Tristan Smith.
Cesar Ortiz added a free throw for the Bulldogs, but Perry knocked down a pair from the line to extend the lead to 59-54 with 1:09 to play.
With 57 seconds left, Ortiz knocked down a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 59-57.
After Perry missed two free throws — the only two he missed on the night — Ramirez added one free throw for the Bulldogs, and Madrigal stole the ball and converted the layup at the other end to give Hermiston a 60-59 lead with 23 second left.
Perry then made two free throws with 18 seconds remaining as the Suns went out front 61-60.
After Ramirez hit what would be the game-winning free throws, Mendez missed two after his steal with 2.9 seconds left on the clock.
The Suns attempted to inbound the ball, but the throw was too long, and the ball went to the Bulldogs.
“Southridge played tough tonight,” Ramirez said.
The Suns led 15-11 after the first quarter, and 26-23 at the half. Cole Smith came off the bench in the second and scored all nine of his points in the quarter to keep the Bulldogs in the game.
The third quarter was a free throw contest, with the Suns hitting 9 of 12, and the Bulldogs 8 of 10. Southridge led 37-36 going into the fourth.
“I thought the first half we played good defense,” Arstein said. “Offensively, we didn’t move the ball well against the matchup zone and we got into foul trouble. When we weren’t in foul trouble and things were going well, we were in a groove.”
Ortiz led the Bulldogs with 17 points, while Ryne Andreason added 11 — all in the second half.
Smith had 19 points to lead the Suns, while Perry added 18, with all but two points coming in the fourth quarter and overtime.
Hermiston at Pasco
It wasn’t the prettiest win, but this late in the season, a win is a win in the Mid-Columbia Conference.
Cesar Ortiz poured in 21 points, and Ryne Andreason added 19 as Hermiston held off host Pasco 73-63 on Jan. 15.
“Our defense has to get better this last stretch of games,” Hermiston coach Casey Arstein said. “I’m pleased with the win, and I’m proud of the guys. I saw some good things offensively in the second half, but we just need to get better defensively.”
Hermiston jumped out to a 10-0 lead to open the game, getting 3-pointers from Jordan Ramirez and Andrew James in the run, but Pasco came back to make it 16-13 with 22 seconds left in the quarters.
Andreason scored with one second remaining to stretch the lead to 18-13.
Both teams went through a scoring drought in the second, with Pasco posting a 9-8 edge to trail 26-22 at the half.
Ortiz came to life in the third, hitting three 3-pointers. Hermiston took a 40-29 lead with a 3 by James, but Pasco would not go away.
Four different players scored points as Pasco strung together nine consecutive points to pull within 40-38 with 3:18 left in the quarter.
A 3 by Ortiz gave Hermiston a 49-40 lead with 1:41 left, but Pasco went on a 6-2 run to end the quarter and cut the deficit to 51-46.
Andreason scored nine of his points in the fourth quarter, where Hermiston had leads of 61-53, 70-58 and 73-60 before Pasco’s Xavier Perez drained a 3 for the final margin.
Ortiz added three assists and five rebounds to his total, while Ramirez added eight points, 10 rebounds and four assists, and James 11 points.