It is an shame the best defender in Columbia River Conference girls basketball wasn’t given any recognition by the league’s coaches in the end of the season awards.

While the Hermiston girls have been dominating the Columbia River Conference, with 24 wins in 24 tries over two seasons, Andrea Waters has been eating up opponent’s offensive threats like they are part of a well-balanced breakfast. It can’t be the easiest job in the world for Waters – who seems like a very nice girl – to know her primary job is to lace up, step onto the hardwood and make it a miserable night for the best scorer on the other team.

Waters is the best defensive player in the CRC; there is no acceptable argument to the contrary. Yet the three opposing coaches – you can’t vote for your own players – somehow forgot that Waters could have easily been confused as the shadow of their number one at times the last couple months.

It didn’t matter if the Hermiston senior was checking a speedy point guard, locking down a sharp-shooting wing or bumping on the block with a big-body post — she made it incredibly tough to score.

Waters might start the game against the point guard, switch down to the block to slow down a troublesome post, and then get moved back out on the perimeter to serve as ice for a shooting guard who is starting to heat up. That’s called versatility. Or if you are an Eagle, Buckaroo or Eagle-Indian, it’s called a nightmare.

The HHS girls basketball team is the fourth-highest scoring team in Class 5A. The Bulldogs have an average margin of victory of almost 24 points per game. In Hermiston’s 20 wins this season, the losing team has lost by less than 10 points three times and only once was that in the Columbia River Conference.

The Bulldogs offense is out of sight so if Steve Hoffert’s team wants defense can be out of mind.

In fact, defense is front of mind. One of the Bulldogs’ primary game-to-game goals is to hold their opponent under 40 points. They accomplished that in eight of the 12 CRC games this season. That just doesn’t happen without Waters on the floor.

The all-league voting makes sense if the only thing that was important in the sport was scoring the basketball. The scoring output of the other three teams in the CRC would suggest that type of player was at a premium.

The problem is this is a sport where it is actually much easier to find scorers than stoppers. When a gem lands in the league, like Waters did with the CRC, she should have garnered recognition.

Waters is a good enough basketball player she could have averaged 10 points per game. Don’t believe that? It took her about 90 seconds to score eight points in one game with Pendleton this season.

If she had double-digit points per game she would have been a lock for CRC first team honors. The reality is when you have so many scorers like Hermiston has, Waters doesn’t have to score that much. She she still was the fourth-highest scorer on the fourth highest scoring team in 5A girls basketball at about six points per game.

I had two immediate reactions to the CRC girls all-conference list. First: I had a hard time imagining how Jeni Hoffert and Maloree Moss weren’t co-players of the year based on the way that CRC teams defended Hermiston, but that is different column. Second: How in the world did the best defender in the entire league not even make all-conference second team? (It isn’t out of the question that all five starters from a team that had a perfect season in conference earn post season recognition.)

The more I thought about it, the more surprise about Waters’ unfortunate under-appreciation became genuine frustration. End of the year recognition shouldn’t be like youth basketball.

Trophies do not need to be spread out among teams evenly. All-conference teams should be about making sure that the very best players get recognized for their contributions to the league. The very best have to be recognized because they worked harder than everybody else to earn those distinctions.

Defense is half the game. Waters does it better than anybody in the Columbia River Conference and she does it against the best players the Bulldog’s opponents can suit up. Leaving her off of one of the all-conference teams is ridiculous.

It isn’t as meaningful as the recognition from the CRC coaches she deserved but Waters is the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year for this broadcaster.

Erick is the news/sports director for KOHU/The Q radio stations in Hermiston. He is also the play-by-play broadcaster of Hermiston High School athletics. Complain to him at eolson@eotnet.net.

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