The Hermiston girls basketball team didn’t come to Eugene with the intentions of playing for a third consecutive fourth place trophy but that is the prize available, if they want it, after losing their quarterfinal matchup with the Bend Lava Bears, 49-39.

Ninety seconds into the game Jeni Hoffert had swished a three pointer and Gracie Flyg had a layup in the paint to jump the Bulldogs to an early 5-0 lead. The Bulldogs never got rolling and wouldn’t score again for over three minutes, at that point Bend had settled into the game and had a 6-5 lead.  

“We didn’t play, obviously, the game that we’re capable of playing,” Hermiston head coach Steve Hoffert said. “There’s nothing you can do about that now, it’s disappointing for us.”

Bend’s zone defense kept Hermiston’s offense outside the perimeter for most of the game, and the shooting woes that teams can experience playing in the college arena struck the normally sure-shooting Bulldogs. Hermiston was just better than 27 percent from the field and 7 for 31 from outside the 3-point arc. The Lava Bears, in contrast, shot better than 41 percent and only attempted two shots outside the perimeter, missing both.

Bend’s desire to get shots in the paint also led to over two dozen trips to the free throw line where they finished 21 of 26. Maloree Moss made the Bulldogs’ only two attempts from the charity stripe.

The Hermiston senior point guard Moss tied Heidi Walchli as the team’s leading scorer with 12 points each. All of Walchli’s points came in the second half before she fouled out of the game in the fourth quarter.

Moss, the Columbia River Conference Player of the Year, eclipsed the 1,200-point plateau during the game and has 1,203 points in her four seasons as a varsity letter winner.

With seven seniors, four who are returning starters from last year’s fourth place team Hoffert said the message to the players was different after this quarterfinal loss than the last two seasons.

“They’ve already heard it from me two years in a row and I said ‘I’m not going to tell you everything is okay, there’s tomorrow. I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that we’ve got another shot at this thing,’ because it is a senior group of girls who know better right now,” Hoffert said.

With 3:18 left in the first quarter, Moss hit a jumper to edge the Bulldogs in front 7-6 but the Bulldogs wouldn’t hit another field goal until Flyg hit one with ten seconds left in the first half to go into the locker room down 23-11.

Hermiston was assessed a team technical foul in the first quarter for having a player listed in the official scorebook with an incorrect number. The roster that was printed for the official scorer had Callahan Crossley listed as number 15, her jersey number from a season ago instead of 21. It was a clerical issue the Bulldogs hadn’t seen in the previous 26 games this season.

Bend senior Ally McConnell hit both free throws to put the Lava Bears in front 8-7 with 2:02 left in the first quarter. Hermiston trailed the rest of the game. Bend’s largest lead was 12 at the half, then again with 5:13 left in the third quarter the Lava Bears were in front 28-16. Hermiston pulled to within one possession three times in the second half but could never make the shot to get the lead back.

“When you make up that big a deficit, yeah you’re fired up,” Hoffert said. “You get close, within three, you miss an easy shot or a turnover or a foul and they’re back up by six and you dig yourselves back out of it. It gets harder and harder every time you do that.”

The consolation semifinal matchup to get into Saturday’s fourth place game is with a non-conference opponent Hermiston is as familiar with as any in this tournament. Since the OSAA split into six classifications the Bulldogs have played Wilsonville at the state tournament site four out of the past five seasons and have a 3-1 record against the Wildcats. They beat the Northwest Oregon Conference team, 56-54, last season in the fourth-place game.

Wilsonville had its own inauspicious start to the state tournament losing to the defending state champion Springfield, 59-15. Fifteen is the second lowest point total in OSAA state tournament history regardless of classification and the lowest in the 5A record books.

AM 1360 KOHU will broadcast Hermiston’s 9 a.m. game with Wilsonville starting at 8:45 a.m. with pregame coverage.

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