Step away from the panic button. Everybody take a few deep breaths. The Hermiston boys basketball team might be 1-4 with a four-game losing streak but there’s no reason to do anything drastic.

The Bulldogs are still going to win the Columbia River Conference because they are the most experienced and talented team west of Portland along Interstate-84. If that sounds like the exact reasoning that was used in this column space to make the same prediction for the Hermiston volleyball team, it is and it was right then, also.

(Settle down Pendleton fans. I was in Eugene last March; I saw how far your team went. I also know how many guys off that varsity team wore a cap and gown at the end of the last season. It’s like I told Beaver fans before the Civil War, if I’m wrong I’m always looking for good recipes for crow.)

The current Hermiston boys basketball team is what happens when the people that create the Magic Eye photo illustrations make a jigsaw puzzle. The puzzle has been put together correctly but now the guys just have to find the 3-D image in the illusion to confirm that the pieces are in all the right places.

Sometimes you have to look at those Magic Eye photos sideways, upside-down and cross-eyed before you really see the photo, and part of the trick is trusting that you are going to find the obscured image.

Right now coach Larry Usher says his team is dealing with confidence issues. The mental side of the game is holding the Bulldogs back from playing to their potential. Usher said that part of his job right now is to convince the team that they don’t need to push that panic button. They don’t need to make any drastic changes to the system that has been in place in the Bulldog program for the previous eight seasons.

Until Tuesday’s game with defending Idaho 5A state champion Post Falls, the best team that Hermiston has played is Kamiakin. The Bulldogs were in the game for all 32 minutes on the road, against the favorite to win the Columbia Basin Big Nine. The game was even closer than the 64-53 score indicates.

Senior Joey Burns attacked the basket and had a game-high 19 points. Sophomore Alex Ortiz was consistent from start to finish and added 12 points to the final total. The Bulldog bigs combined to hold the Braves’ post players below double-digit points. There were stretches of that game where the guards were able to stifle Kamiakin’s offense too.

Hermiston is good enough to beat Post Falls. All the pieces are there. The defense proved it can buckle down and get stops; the offensive potential is limitless with five guys who can get on a streak and explode for 20-plus points on a given night. The puzzle has been put together and it seems all that is left is for the athletes to trust the system they have grown up in and believe that the winning picture that is already there.

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