HERMISTON — Last week was a forgettable one for the Hermiston boys basketball team. A seven-point loss to cross-town foe Pendleton and a six-point road loss in The Dalles put the Bulldogs at .500 in a league where the winner will likely only have one or two losses.
Hermiston couldn’t afford another mark in the loss column when it welcomed Hood River Valley on Tuesday. In the teams’ second matchup of the season, the Eagles were coming off an upset in Pendleton to give them their first win in four games.
Similar to the their first meeting, the Bulldogs had to come back from a late deficit to best Hood River. Except this time it was a thrilling overtime victory that put Hermiston on top, 71-69.
“They stayed in the game mentally, which was huge,” head coach Casey Arstein said.
He quickly changed gears, though, pointing out much needed areas of improvement if Hermiston was a chance at the Columbia River Conference title.
“We’ve just got to do better with some decision making at the end, we’re young but we’ll take it,” Arstein added. “I’m glad the kids battled, we just had some poor decisions.”
With a little over 10 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Hermiston found itself in yet another deficit. The Eagles (6-14 overall, 1-4 CRC) led 61-59 senior Jonah Tactay spun around defenders for a lay-up that put Hood River ahead.
Arstein called a timeout, and for 30 seconds the Bulldogs drew up a plan to run one of their sets that gave them two different options.
Except, when they came out of the timeout, sophomore Andrew Earl saw a shot her couldn’t refuse and tried for an open three to give Hermiston the lead. The missed attempt was one of many the Bulldogs (8-11, 3-2) had from behind the arc Tuesday night.
Eagles defenders fought for the rebound, got it, and Dakota Kurahara was immediately fouled. Until that point, Kurahara’s only points of the game were in the second quarter, a set of field goals that capped off Hood River’s 13-0 run.
For his first appearance at the charity stripe, the senior went 1-for-2 to now give the Eagles a three-point advantage.
With mere seconds left, the ball find Earl behind the arc once again. This time he’s in the left corner and as Hood River defenders start to charge toward him, he shoots and scores his only points of the game to knot it up at 62 points apiece and sending the game to overtime.
In the single overtime period, Hermiston would use another long ball to stay in the game. In that same left corner with 53.1 seconds left on the clock, off the hands of junior Ryne Andreason, the Bulldogs were back in it as the scoreboard read 67-67.
Hood River continued to use its athleticism to power its way to the hoop for the lead in the final 20 seconds of play.
Hermiston quickly moved the ball down the court, and it once again ended up in Andreason’s hands. In an effort to stop him, Hood River sophomore Noah Webster picked up his fifth foul and sent Andreason to the free-throw line.
Andreason sank both attempts to put the Bulldogs up 71-69, and Hood River had one last chance to tie or win the game. However, the Eagles’ top scorer, Tactay, mishandled the ball and the ball bounced away as the final buzzer sounded to clinch the win for Hermiston.
“I thought the guys stayed aggressive, positive in timeouts, and I’m glad to get the win at home,” Arstein said.
For much of the game, Hermiston had to battle back from holes it dug itself into. The biggest was in the final three minutes of the second quarter.
After the opening quarter, the Bulldogs held a 12-10 lead. They increased their advantage to 26-17, the largest lead of any team during the game. That’s when the Eagles engineered their 13-0 run to go up 30-26 at the break.
Kurahara received helped from Tactay and senior JJ Mears to give Hood River a lead they would not relinquish until Hermiston went on a run of its own in the final minutes of the third quarter.
Andreason had just made a much needed point in transition to put the Bulldogs within one possession of the Eagles’ 41-38 lead.
Mears answered back with one of his four 3-pointers on the night, again increasing Hood River’s lead to 44-38.
With the ball once again back in Andreason’s hands, a made free throw sparked a 10-0 run that gave Hermiston a 48-44 lead entering the final quarter in regulation.
The Bulldogs outscored the Eagles 22-14 in the third, led by the efforts of senior Thomas McCullough.
In the fourth, behind three lead changes, Hermiston was only up in the opening seconds — before Tactay scored his first of 13 points in the quarter — and with a little under four minutes left, when junior Cesar Ortiz hit his second and last 3-pointer of the night.
The win gives Hermiston much needed momentum as it prepares for a matchup in Pendleton on Friday. A win will tie the Bucks atop the league standings, and a loss will make it hard for any CRC team to stop the defending champions.
HRV 10 20 14 18 7 — 69
HHS 12 14 22 14 9 — 71
HOOD RIVER VALLEY — J. Tactay 19, J. Mears 16, E. Siekkimen 9, N. Webster 7, D. Kurahara 7, T. Hough 6, G. Diaz 2, C. Flores 2, T. Wells 2.
HERMISTON — R. Andreason 19, C. Ortiz 12, A. Mendez 11, T. McCullough 10, J. Ramirez 8, A. James 5, A. Earl 3, P. Wicks 3.
3-pointers — HRV 6, HHS 5. Free throws — HRV 13-17, HHS 18-20. Fouls — HRV 15 (Webster, Kurahara fouled out), HHS 11.
Contact Alexis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-564-4542. Follow her on Twitter @almansanarez.