After trailing most of the game, the Hermiston boys basketball team rallied in the second half to down the No. 4 Summit Storm 56-53 Saturday in Hermiston to give the Storm just its second loss of the season.
Before taking a 41-39 lead with 49 seconds left in the third quarter, the Bulldogs’ (8-6) last lead was 5-4 in the first quarter. For interim head coach Dave Ego, the comeback was an indication of the improved “attitude and work ethic” displayed by his group, which started last season 2-12.
“It says our attitudes getting better,” he said. “Not hanging your head, and doing the things that we need to do. They kept working hard and it was a good effort down the line.”
Early on, Summit’s size gave Hermiston some problems. Playing without Tre Neal, Summit’s tall front line affected numerous Hermiston shots at the rim, but led just 16-14 after the first quarter. Hermiston started a small lineup — five guards — and wanted to run the Storm into oblivion.
It wasn’t quite working, though, and Summit’s Jack Hurley hit a 3-pointer with 4:01 on the clock in the second quarter to take its largest lead of the game of eight points at 24-16.
But, as happened all afternoon, Hermiston rallied to cut the halftime deficit to just three at 30-27 behind the aggressive fast-breaking offense Ego employs, and a strong effort by 6-foot-5 senior Preston Peterson off the bench.
“Going small like we did, we knew we could out-run ‘em,” Ego said. “That worked out for us. Peterson came in and played well and ran the floor well for us defensively, and that was necessary for us. It was a good team effort.”
Summit tried to extend its lead in the third quarter, leading by as many as five after Cam Baker’s putback with 2:51 left to move the count to 39-34, but a 7-0 Bulldogs run gave them its first lead since the second quarter, and the fourth quarter began with things tied up at 41.
Then Hermiston’s offense came alive with help from its defense.
“We did a good job of closing out and contesting,” Ego said of his team’s defense against a Summit squad that likes to, and can, shoot 3s, holding the Storm to just four. “We did a pretty good job of getting the post people inside. That’s another weakness for us especially with who we started.”
Summit committed 24 turnovers on the day, while Hermiston made just nine and committed back-to-back turnovers just one. Hermiston started the fourth quarter with a massive 12-2 run with Dayshawn Neal, who finished with 15 points, and Chance Flores (17) doing most of the damage off those turnovers. Austin Naillon’s 3-pointer with 2:55 to go in the final period gave Hermiston its largest lead of ten points at 53-43, and Summit looked dead. Naillon finished with 20 points to lead all scorers.
But the experience of the Storm showed as they made things interesting down the strech.
In a minute, Summit had cut the lead in half at 53-48 when Russell Wells hit a 3, his only basket of the game, then, after Neal made one of two free throws, Hurley hit a 3 to cut the lead in half again at 54-51.
Summit began trapping everything, and Hermiston was allowing it by dribbling into the corners just past the timeline to make the traps easier for Summit.
“I think part of that is — and the next game we’ll probably be better at that — because they haven’t played in that situation very much, this group of kids,” Ego said. “You have to learn to play under pressure and I thought that by and large we did that most of the night.”
Then things got interesting.
“If we made our free throws, it wouldn’t have been an issue,” Ego said.
Neal again made one of two, then Andy Jones made a layup through a foul to get Summit within two a 55-53. On the free throw, Neal fouled Jason Garcia, sending the senior to line for one-and-one. Just after the foul, Hurley putback the missed attempt creating confusion that took nearly five minutes to figure out. Garcia misssed his free throw, Neal was fouled, again made one of two, and Jones’ desperation 3 at the buzzer went begging, giving Hermiston its best win of the season.
““The kids are coming around with attitudes and coming around with the work ethic we think they have to have,” he said. “If we can transpose that into practice as well as games, we’ll be a better team every week.”
Hermiston visits Sunnyside (WA) on Tuesday for a 7:30 p.m. tip.
HERMISTON 56, SUMMIT 53
SHS (8-1, 1-0) 16 14 11 12 — 53
HHS (8-6, 0-0) 14 13 14 15 — 56
Summit — J. Hurley 13, N. Mason 13, K. Cornett 10, C. Collins 4, C. Baker 4, R. Wells 3, J. Garcia 2, S. Kent 2, A. Jones 2, E. Wasserman, C. Mason.
Hermiston — A. Naillon 20, D. Neal 17, C. Flores 15, A. James 2, P. Peterson 2, P. Wicks, H. Walls, J. Garcia, C. Ortiz, B. Palmer.
3-pointers — SHS 4, HHS 5. Free throws — SHS 10-18, HHS 3-13. Fouls — SHS 21, HHS 16.