HERMISTON — It had been a while since the Hermiston girls basketball team was riding a win streak. The Bulldogs hadn’t put up three or more consecutive wins since February of 2017, but after back-to-back wins against La Grande and a league opening win in The Dalles, Hermiston was beginning to shake its preseason woes.
Now, the wins are beginning to pile up as the Bulldogs take their fourth straight victory with a 56-34 win over Hood River Valley in the Dawg House. Despite the cleanup Hermiston has to do in order to vie for the top spot in the league, the Bulldogs (6-11 overall, 2-0 Columbia River Conference) remain undefeated in conference play and for the first time have some momentum as they get into the brunt of their league schedule.
“It’s a confidence booster and we were able to win a game where we didn’t necessarily play well,” head coach Juan Rodriguez said. “We did what we needed to and those are the types games we’re going to have. I just told the girls that it being our last year in this league, every team is going to give us their best shot because they want to beat us and not many teams have.”
It was Hermiston’s first league game at home, but despite the advantage it took a while for the Bulldogs to get settled.
The Eagles (8-8, 0-2) knocked down three of the last four made baskets in the first quarter to build a 15-12 lead over the Bulldogs.
Hermiston’s good defensive pressure at the start of the half forced six Hood River turnovers, but the Eagles were able to hold on to the ball in the final three minutes to have one of its only leads of the night.
Senior Maddy Juul — who played her first game since the start of the season, and finished the game with five points — sank some free throws to put the Bulldogs within striking distance.
For a team that has struggled from the charity stripe, Hermiston was able to make six of its nine free throws late in the second quarter to enter the break up 24-23.
Having Juul back in the rotation and coming of the bench is a different roll for the CRC’s reigning Player of the Year.
“For me, having her come of the bench as a sixth player, that doesn’t happen very often,” Rodriguez said. “Obviously we’d like her to play a lot more, but with her knee we just want to have her play for the rest of the season. ... Being able to bring her in to back up Jordan (Thomas) is a little bit of a luxury, even though she is a little bit hobbled.”
With Juul able to rest Thomas, the 6-foot-3 junior whose presence inside has been a big reason for Hermiston’s success, Rodriguez is now able to dig even deeper into his bench to help stall an athletic team like Hood River.
“They’re an athletic team, surprisingly athletic, and they do a lot of things well but they use their athleticism and to get to the basket,” Rodriguez said.
When the teams returned to the floor there was no stopping the Bulldogs, who had given up nine points to Hood River’s biggest threat, senior Lauren Orr. They held Hood River to only three points in the third quarter, while scoring 18 themselves.
“The biggest adjustment was to just keep them in front and forcing them to pass, which is where they struggled a little bit,” Rodriguez added. “When we were able to do that, then they started turning the ball over, they couldn’t score as well and that’s where we had the advantage.”
Junior Maddie Wilson was the most effective in the third, scoring half of her 10 points to boost Hermiston’s lead to 42-26.
Much like free throws, earlier in the season Hermiston struggled with confidence and putting together a full four quarters of play. With the four consecutive wins, the Bulldogs’ confidence is up and as of late, they have been aggressive until the final buzzer.
Hermiston again increased its lead with the aid of Wilson. The Bulldogs held the Eagles scoreless with 5:20 left on the clock, and had their bench come in to play the final two minutes of the game.
Sophomore Jazlyn Romero, as well as the other starters, got a round of applause as they took the bench. Romero led the team with a game-high 15 points. Thomas pitched in 10 points along with Wilson.
For Hood River, Orr finished with a team-best of 10 points, while the rest of the Eagles were held to single digits.
Hermiston will continue its homestand on Tuesday when Pendleton comes to town for a doubleheader. The girls will play first at 5:45 p.m.
HRV 15 8 3 8 — 34
HHS 13 11 18 14 — 56
HOOD RIVER VALLEY — L. Orr 10, H. McNerney 7, B. Frazier 6, H. Baker 4, G. Meyers 4, B. Ihde 3.
HERMISTON — J. Romero 15, M. Wilson 10, J. Thomas 10, H. Thompson 8, M. Juul 5, J. Ray 2, S. Stefani 2, P. Palzinski 2, R. Meyers 2.
3-pointers — HRV 2, HHS 2. Free throws — HRV 4-9, HHS 12-22. Fouls — HRV 19, HHS 12.