After a holiday season spent playing some of the toughest competition on the west coach, the Hermiston girls basketball team thought it had an easy win against the 4A No. 4 La Grande Tigers Tuesday night in Hermiston.
The eighth-ranked Bulldogs quickly learned it wouldn’t be that easy. After a lackadaisical first quarter that saw the Tigers jump to a 17-12 lead with the Bulldogs committing five turnovers, the Bulldogs clamped down in a big way to hold the Tigers scoreless in the second period en route to a 56-42 win.
“We’ve talked about running a fast-paced set, we ran a press to get us going tonight,” Hermiston coach Steve Hoffert said. “I think what we did was effective, we just missed some easy looks and got frustrated, forced it, made some turnovers, missed another easy shot. It just gets in your head at times.”
Hoffert wondered if the opponent didn’t factor into the slow start a little, and senior guard Jansen Edmiston agreed. Hoffert noted that against the Central Catholics or West Linns of the world, the slow starts don’t happen. It’s simply a matter of focus, he said.
“We play those teams, we want to see those teams,” Hoffert said. “We just didn’t see La Grande as one of those teams. A little respect goes to La Grande. They came in here hell-bent to knock us off, and they competed well and had a good game.”
La Grande certainly wasn’t taking the Bulldogs lightly. Quick guards Kylin Collman and Avery Albrecht attacked Hermiston’s man-to-man defense early, getting to the rim and forcing fouls. The Bulldogs committed four transgressions in the first two minutes, though still only trailed 6-5 after Maddy Juul’s layup. The score sat at 7-7 with around three minutes to go and La Grande made an early move, taking a 17-9 lead on an 10-0 run that saw two 2-pointers from Albrecht and 3s from Collman and Lacey Miles. Hoffert took a full timeout immediately following Miles’ bucket, and the game really swung from there.
Edmiston hit a 3-pointer at the first quarter buzzer, starting a 15-0 run that lasted all the way until halftime.
“I think today things started to click again like they were before the long trip,” Edmiston said. “We got our legs back.”
After those first five turnovers, Hermiston’s offense settled down, though it still struggled to score. Hermiston shot just 27 percent (10-36) from the floor in the first half and 16 percent (3-18) from behind the 3-point arch. Hampered by an 0-10 from the floor in the second quarter, La Grande wasn’t much better, shooting 22 percent (5-23) and 29 percent (2-7) from deep.
“Honestly, I think if we put our minds to it then we’re pretty good at playing defense (and) getting baskets,” Edmiston said. “And if we play good defense, we get easy baskets.”
But Hermiston did enough offensively to pull away. La Grande sank into a zone, daring Hermiston to shoot the Tigers out of it. Normally that’s a dangerous proposition against a good 3-point shooting team, but Tuesday night — for whatever reason — the shots weren’t falling. Rileigh Andreason, Shaelynn Gilbert and Kiana Heehn — none of whom forced any deep shots — could hit from range while Edmiston and fellow senior sharpshooter Sara Ramirez were a little off, as well. Ramirez finished with 16 points, and the shooting was just good enough to force La Grande back into a man-to-man defense in the second half.
The Bulldogs took a 24-17 lead into the second half, and it moved quickly to 25-17 when a La Grande was penalized with a scorebook error and assessed a technical foul. The lead stretched to eight at 31-23 after Ramirez made a layup and was fouled and made the free throw, and La Grande came within five at 31-26 after Albrecht’s one three-point play. Minutes later, Collman was assessed a technical after she disagreed with a foul call on Juul. The Hermiston sophomore made two of the four attempts. That pushed Hermiston’s lead back to eight at 34-26, and it was 40-28 at the end of the quarter.
Hermiston milked the clock most of the fourth quarter and led by as many as 19 in the final frame.
The Bulldogs get a week off before traveling to the Yakima area for a game against Sunnyside next Tuesday at 5:45 p.m. The Grizzlies beat the Bulldogs 55-49 last season at the Dawghouse.
HERMISTON 56, LA GRANDE 42
L-G (7-4) 17 0 11 14 — 42
HHS (11-3) 12 12 16 16 — 56
La Grande — A. Albrecht 15, K. Collman 11, M. Wilcox 7, K. Avila 4, L. Miles 3, B. Givens 2, D. Lester, M. Orton, C. Conrad, L. Jensen, K. Schelin, M. Tussey.
Hermiston — M. Juul 16, S. Ramirez 16, J. Edmiston 11, R. Andreason 5, K. Padilla 4, H. Meyers 2, S. Gilbert 2, R. Meyers, K. Heehn, H. Thompson, J. Thomas.
3-pointers — La Grande 3, Hermiston 5. Free throws — La Grande 13-15, Hermiston 9-15. Fouls — La Grande 12, Hermiston 10. Technical fouls — La Grande, K. Collman.