For one half on Saturday night, everything went the Hermiston Bulldogs way.

The Bulldogs were driving to the basket with ease and finishing at the rim. They were defensive stalwarts at the other end of the floor, keeping their hands in the passing lanes and forcing turnovers that kept the opposing Kamiakin Braves off the board more often than not.

But then in the second half, the two schools effectively switched places. It was the Braves that were the ones scoring with ease and playing stout defense while Hermiston struggled to keep its offense trending upwards.

In the end, the Bulldogs didn’t have enough in the tank as Kamiakin left town with a 58-51 victory, the first loss for Hermiston this season.

“I give it up to Kamiakin,” Hermiston coach Casey Arstein said after the game. “They’ve got athletes, they’re smart, they’re well-coached and it was a good game to have for our preseason for sure. It was kind of a playoff atmosphere with a good crowd, we just have to be able to execute in the half court and get stops, which are things to build on now.”

Hermiston (5-1) was boosted by a especially strong first quarter on Saturday, as the defense forced seven Brave turnovers and Hermiston shot 6-10 from the floor to take a 20-10 lead on Kamiakin. But over the next two quarters, Hermiston’s offense went cold and the Braves began to figure out the defense as Kamiakin outscored Hermiston 24-19 over the next two quarters.

“The kids played hard the whole game, but I think we got a little sluggish in our motion offense and not picking our spots,” Arstein said. “We got a little impatient, playing not to lose instead of continuing to play to win. The little mistakes add up to bigger mistakes, and now we just have to fix those.”

The Bulldogs defense also got a bit too aggressive in the second half committing 16 team fouls, which resulted in a whopping 26 free throw attempts in the second half alone for Kamiakin, who was successful on 17 of those attempts.

“I felt like most the second half we were just watching them shoot free throws,” Arstein said. “We were sending them to the line too much, being too aggressive with our hands. We bailed them out a lot in the second half and we have to get better at picking our spots and playing smarter defense with our feet instead of our hands.”

Kamiakin (1-0) took it’s first lead of the game at 42-39 with 4:45 left in the game, but it didn’t last long. On Hermiston’s next possession, Cesar Ortiz drilled a 3-pointer from the left wing to tie the game back at 42-all with 4 minutes to play.

However, Kamiakin took the lead back a short time later and didn’t relinquish it. Garrett Paxton was a big part of Kamiakin’s second-half surge, scoring 16 of his game-high 18 points in the latter half of the game.

For Hermiston, Andrew James led the team in scoring with 13 points, while Chance Flores and Jordan Ramirez each scored 11 points. Eight of Flores’ points came within the first three minutes of the game when he scored eight of the team’s first 10 points. Hermiston shot 35 percent (17-49) from the floor in the game and just 5-21 (24 percent) from 3-point range.

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KHS 10 10 14 24 — 58

HHS 20 10 9 12 — 51

KAMIAKIN — G. Paxton 18, I. Brimmer 12, C. Grayson 7, K. Bailey 6, S. Wolf 6, C. Green 3, P. Flynn 3, J. Nichols 2.

HERMISTON — A. James 13, C. Flores 11, J. Ramirez 11, X. Rambo 9, T. McCullough 4, C. Ortiz 3.

3-pointers — KHS 1, HHS 5. Free throws — HHS 12-18, KHS 22-34. Fouls — KHS 20, HHS 26. Fouled out — X. Rambo, C. Flores, A. James (HHS).

Chance Flores sank a short lay-in with just nine seconds left on the clock to give his Hermiston Bulldogs a 60-59 victory on the road against Chiawana on Friday night in Pasco, Washington.

Flores’ basket also marked the first time in the game that the Bulldogs (5-0) held a lead.

“It was a pretty sloppy game on our end, a lot of things to work on,” Hermiston coach Casey Arstein said, “but we’ll take a win on the road any day.”

Flores scored 20 points in the game, though none were bigger than his final two points. With Hermiston down 59-58 with 16 seconds left, the Bulldog defense forced a turnover and started a fastbreak down the floor. Flores caught the ball on the wing and drove toward the basket from the baseline and sneaked a shot in.

Also giving standout performances for Hermiston was Xavier Rambo, who played in his first game back from a concussion and scored nine points, and Hunter Walls with eight points. Walls was 2-2 from the 3-point line, 2-2 from the free throw line, and provided solid defense while playing a lot of minutes for Hermiston.

“(Hunter) started and gave his best all-around game of the year tonight,” Arstein said.

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HHS 11 11 16 22 — 60

CHS 14 19 15 11 — 59

HERMISTON — C. Flores 20, A. James 11, X. Rambo 9, J. Ramirez 9, H. Walls 8, T. McCullough, A. Earl, C. Ortiz, P. Wicks, K. Moss.

CHIAWANA — M. Taylor 20, C. Kaelber 11, C. Bassett 10, S. Lopez 5, M. McMahon 2, A. Penny 1.

3-pointers — HHS 9, CHS 5. Free throws — HHS 11-17, CHS 18-20. Fouls — HHS 21, CHS 17.

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Contact Eric at esinger@eastoregonian.com or (541) 966-0839. Follow him on Twitter @ByEricSinger.

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