Unfortunately, things came to somewhat of an abrupt end for the Hermiston girls basketball team this week at the Class 5A state tournament.

Many people, myself included, had already penciled in the Dawgs in at least one of the trophy games Saturday. But when the ball doesn’t go in the bucket for you, it’s awfully tough to advance in tournaments.

Many theories are out there as to why the Dawgs didn’t perform at the state tournament like they usually do, and most of them can be busted rather easily.

I have received some e-mail, text messages and tweets (yes, I’m on Twitter, and you should be, too. Follow me @BillyGatesHH) trying to explain why the Dawgs went two-and-out at the tournament, and to be honest, I don’t agree with them. Here are a few of the comments I received, followed by my logic behind why they don’t tell the entire story.

- Hermiston had a weak schedule, especially inside its conference.

While the Columbia River Conference schedule isn’t going through the gauntlet by any means, this justification doesn’t fly because Bend’s schedule was actually worse than Hermiston’s.

In the 5A class in the Intermountain Hybrid, which was the rubble left behind when the CRC teams and Bend schools split in the last reclassification block, there are three teams. Three. That includes Bend.

Mountain View and Summit were not very good basketball teams this year. Both teams had overall losing records at 9-14 and their RPIs were essentially identical to the CRC’s third-place team, Pendleton.

Bend lost to The Dalles Wahtonka in the nonconference portion of their schedule, and also needed double overtime to take care of 14-12 Class 4A Crook County.

The Lava Bears lost to a Class 6A Grants Pass team that’s very mediocre and also lost to North Medford who finished 11-14.

Bend also didn’t attend the Interstate Shootout, which is by far the most competitive girls high school basketball tournament around. Hermiston did and placed in the Class 6A division.

Hermiston also played Washington Class 3A frontrunner Kamiakin and beat Idaho Class 5A powerhouse Lewiston.

The weak schedule idea just doesn’t add up as far as I’m concerned.

- Hermiston doesn’t have a big girl to clog up the middle.

The Dawgs, albeit they are smaller than in years past, still can defend the post with their good zone defense. They held Lewiston’s Chelsea Waters, a Gonzaga commit, to seven points and just one made field goal.

They routinely kept posts from The Dalles Wahtonka in check and really the only post to go absolutely crazy on them was Central Catholic’s Kailee Johnson, and she’s one of the best in Oregon.

Hermiston’s defense, anchored by Andrea Waters, (the league’s best defender by far and was unfortunately left off the all-conference team because the league coaches don’t know how to value defense) was good enough to stop bigger girls from scoring.

- The officials were bad.

I don’t even want to go there. Teams needs play so that “bad calls” don’t make a difference in the outcome of the game. That’s all I will say.

My point is this: Hermiston lost because they didn’t shoot the ball well. Through the play-in game this season, Hermiston shot 32.3 percent from 3-point range, which is a pretty good percentage for a high school team.

At the state tournament, that number plummeted to 18.5 percent. The Dawgs shot 10 of 54 from 3-point range because they are confident in taking that shot when teams pack in a zone defense against them. They hit shots all through the season, and it just so happened the shots they usually make didn’t fall for them.

The also didn’t get to the foul line like they usually do, and some of that is a byproduct of putting up all those 3-pointers. I will say they probably should have tried to attack the basket a little more, but that still doesn’t carry the weight for what ailed them, which was simply poor shooting.

This senior class is a special one, and it’s a shame their final season ended without a trophy. It will go down as one of the best overall classes in Hermiston basketball — well, athletics — history.

I know as a reporter the idea is to stay as objective and neutral as possible, but I have got to say I was rooting for this team to improved on its dual fourth-place trophies the past two seasons.

There was no denying they had the talent to do it, but sometimes things just don’t go the way you want them to.

Hermiston will be going to more state tournaments in the future, trust me on that.

But if the ball doesn’t go in, then it’s tough to win.

Billy is the sports editor for the Herald. Write him at bgates@hermistonherald.com.

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