Hermiston coach Juan Rodriguez has pleaded with his team all season to feed the ball inside to 6-foot-4 post Jordan Thomas. Friday night, the Bulldogs did just that.
Thomas finished with a game-high 21 points to lead Hermiston to a 52-43 Mid-Columbia Conference victory over Hanford at the Dawg House.
“It’s happening,” Rodriguez said of utilizing Thomas more. “Other players made some good plays too.”
Hermiston (7-10, 5-8 MCC), which already has secured a regional playoff berth, beat the Falcons (2-16, 1-13) for the second time this season.
The Bulldogs controlled the game from the start, with Thomas scoring the first five points. They led 14-0 before Abby Robinson got the Falcons on the board with 45 seconds remaining.
Mati Byrd added a basket for Hermiston, and Sarah Ellis scored for Hanford with two seconds left for a 16-4 game at the end of the first.
“First, we wanted to come out and suck the energy out of them, and not let them steal some early baskets,” Rodriguez said. “Second, we did not want to put them at the free-throw line. The first half was good.”
The two teams played a pretty even game the rest of the way. Thomas had 10 points in the second half, while Jazlyn Romero scored seven of her nine in the first half.
Byrd scored six points off the bench, and Jayden Ray scored five of her seven points in the second half.
Hermiston committed only one foul in the first half, keeping the Falcons off the free-throw line. Hanford shot all four of its free throws in the fourth quarter, making each one.
Iliana Moran led the Falcons with 13 points. She was the only player in double figures.
“Our zone was a little more aggressive,” Rodriguez said. “We preach deflection.”
Hermiston at Richland
Freshman Mia Hernandez is starting to get more comfortable with the Hermiston offense since her move from Sunnyside just before Christmas.
Hernandez had 10 points on Saturday, and Jordan Thomas added 12 points and hauled down six rebounds, but the Bulldogs still came up short in a 68-58 Mid-Columbia Conference road loss to Richland.
“Mia is starting to get comfortable,” Hermiston coach Juan Rodriguez said. “She has come a long way and has done a good job of adjusting. This was a good game for her.”
The Bulldogs (7-11 overall, 5-9 MCC) held their own against the Bombers (11-8, 8-7) in the first. They trailed 16-9, but two baskets by Thomas and one by Kaylee Young made it 16-15.
Gracie Pierce, who led Richland with 12 points, hit a 3-pointer with 1:09 remaining, but Kendall Dowdy matched that with a three-point play for a 19-18 game. Nicole Gall scored with 26 seconds left in the quarter for a 21-18 lead.
Richland would add two more points to its lead in the second to hold a slim 33-28 lead at the half.
Hermiston pulled within one point twice, and tied the scored at 27-27 with a pair of free throws by Sydney Stefani with 1:37 to play in the first half.
Two consecutive baskets by Halee Pierce gave the Bombers a 31-27 lead with 41 seconds remaining.
The Bombers opened the third quarter on a 9-2 run to take a 42-30 lead just 2 minutes into the action.
“I thought we started the game really well,” Rodriguez said. “When it got to double digits, they stopped competing. As a coach, that is disappointing.”
Jordan Clark scored eight of her 11 points in the fourth quarter as the Bombers were able to keep their lead intact.
Jazlyn Romero added eight points and eight rebounds for the Bulldogs, who hosted Kamiakin on Tuesday after deadline. Jayden Ray added seven points and seven rounds, and Paige Palzinski five points and five rebounds.