Dawgs thump Falcons, advance to final site

<p>Hermiston's Heidi Walchli (42) and McKenzie Byrd (11) converge on Liberty's Kylie Wruble (10) during an OSAA Class 5A girls high school basketball Round of 16 playoff game Friday night at The Dawg House in Hermiston. The Dawgs pounded the Falcons, 63-33, to advance to the 5A quarterfinals and the tournament finals site, Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene.</p>

When Hermiston saw the opportunity to put the Liberty Falcons away, they did so in emphatic fashion.

A 14-0 run in the third quarter plus a swarming full-court pressure defense lifted the Dawgs to a 63-33 victory in the first round of the OSAA Class 5A girls basketball playoffs Friday at The Dawg House.

With the win, Hermiston will advance to the quarterfinals and face Bend at 3:15 p.m. March 7 at Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene.

Even with the 30-point blowout, Hermiston head coach Steve Hoffert said it still wasn’t his team’s most crisply-played ballgame.

“We didn’t execute some things I thought we should have defensively,” Hoffert said. “We got in a bit of a lull there in the third quarter, and we aren’t going to beat anyone in Eugene with things like that.”

That lull resulted in an 8-0 Liberty run that cut the Hermiston lead to 26-19, but after Hoffert called a timeout in hopes to stop the momentum, it was all Hermiston.

First team all-conference guard Jeni Hoffert drilled a 3-pointer to stop the bleeding, then the Dawgs began the big run to put the game away.

Gracie Flyg converted a 3-point play then Hoffert canned another 3-pointer, and the run culminated on an Andrea Waters putback and foul shot with 2:34 left in the period.

“We just didn’t want them to score another bucket of us,” Coach Hoffert said. “We needed to stop and refocus on what we needed to do.”

Early on in the contest, senior guard Callahan Crossley drilled a trio of 3-pointers that were able to give the Dawgs a shot of energy.

“I just wasn’t thinking about it, just playing basketball,” Crossley said. “We’re on the right track. We’ll have another hard practice and try hard. We can do it.”

All of Crossley’s points came from the early long-range shots, but they came at a critical time and gave the Dawgs that extra cushion early in the game.

In the win, Maloree Moss led the team with 16 points and Hoffert had 13.

Hermiston hit eight 3-pointers and shot 11 of 19 from the foul line.

While Hermiston has placed fourth at the state tournament the past two seasons, but expectations remain high, at least for Crossley.

When asked what she thought would make this trip to Eugene a successful one, the honest reply came with a big smile.

“State champions, of course.”

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