PENDLETON — The Pendleton Buckaroos started with a blank slate on Thursday when they hosted the Hood River Valley Eagles to open Columbia River Conference play.
Head coach Kevin Porter noted after Tuesday’s non-league loss to Baker that these next nine games were the only ones that mattered. And that message was reiterated leading up to the league opener.
We told the girls all week, ‘We’re 0-0 now and we want to be 1-0 come Thursday night.’”
And after Thursday night, the defending CRC champions were 1-0 after defeating Hood River 51-36 behind a sound defense and a deep bench.
Porter called on the great Coach K — head coach of Duke’s men’s basketball team — when asked about the team’s defensive efforts, also highlighting each girls involvement in the victory.
“You read all the expert coaches like Mike Krzyzewski, they’ll tell you it doesn’t take talent to play defense, it takes effort and desire,” Porter said. “And our girls showed they were willing to put out the effort and desire tonight and it was all 12 of them.”
The Buckaroos (9-6 overall, 1-0 CRC) started the game with heavy defensive pressure, going on an 11-4 run behind a full court press that disrupted the Eagles, causing turnovers and rushed passes that favored Pendleton.
Hood River’s shots were finally falling late in the first quarter as they slowly chipped away at its deficit. The Eagles knotted the score at 16-16 thanks to their leading scorer, sophomore guard Ashlynn Dawson.
Dawson was responsible for all of the points in their 7-5 run, and finished with a team-best 12 points.
At the halftime break, the Bucks had staked out a 26-20 lead.
But the game broke open in the third quarter. The Bucks outscored the Eagles 16-5 in the third to increase their lead to 42-25 and ran away to reach the final score of 51-36.
Porter repeated the game plan throughout the night: continue to bring the pressure on defense, be patient with the ball and play clean — Pendleton finished with only nine turnovers.
“It’s just intensity in practice,” Porter said. “We’re just trying to raise the intensity level in practice and trying to perform at that level in games and tonight they showed that they can do that.”
According to Pendleton’s lead scorer, senior post player Kalan McGlothan, the team took their weakness and imposed it on their opponents.
“We used to struggle really bad when teams would press us,” she said. “So then we press them, and we set the tempo of the game and it’s something we want to do every game.”
Matching the team’s intensity, Porter had moments by the bench that helped fuel the fire the Bucks lit on the court.
At the beginning of the third quarter, the officials signaled timeout. Pendleton had just gone on a 9-2 run and Porter couldn’t have been happier.
He jumped off the bench, and with both feet planted near the 3-point arc he waved his hands and yelled “Get in here, let’s go.”
“I can be very excitable,” Porter said. He noted that people can misunderstand that energy and think he is getting after the players — but that wasn’t the case.
“I certainly was not getting after the girls,” he said. “I want that intensity (from the court) to stay there. I don’t want a timeout to (be) a letdown, so I tend to increase my energy sometimes. I couldn’t of been happier.”
Pendleton will hope to carry that same intensity to its next game Tuesday. The Bucks will host their last non-league matchup before hitting the road and returning to CRC play for a three-game away stint. Pendleton will welcome the La Grande Tigers, and tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.
HRV 11 9 5 11 — 36
PHS 16 10 16 9 — 51
HOOD RIVER VALLEY — A. Dawson 12, E. Curtis 6, L. Orr 4, H. Baker 3, H. McNerney 3, D. Valle 2, B. Ihde 2, B. Fraizer 2, L. Weekly 1, G. Meyers 1.
PENDLETON — K. McGlothan 16, J. Lemberger 8, H. Porter 7, J. Wilson 7, R. Genther 5, M. Davies 5, K. Braqdt 3.
3-pointers — HRV 4, PHS 3. Free throws — HRV 4-6, PHS 8-12. Fouls — HRV 14, PHS 12.