HERMISTON — The Hermiston-Pendleton matchup is going to draw crowds no matter the sport. It’s also going to put added pressure on the players to come away with a win for bragging rights, or to keep a win streak alive, or to assert your dominance as the team to beat in the conference.
On Tuesday in Hermiston, the Buckaroos did just that as they defeated the Bulldogs 51-44.
Despite being led by junior Tyler Newsom — who is arguably the best offensive player in the conference — with 16 points, Pendleton had another star breakout 30 miles away from its home gym and in one of the most hostile environments the team will face.
Freshman Dakota Sams finished behind Newsom with 15 points, 11 of which came in the second half when the Bucks (11-7 overall, 3-0 Columbia River Conference) desperately needed them.
Pendleton opened up the game with a meager seven points, while Hermiston built a six-point lead netting 13 of its own.
“Anytime you have a freshman coming into a hostile game for the first time and go for 15 — Dakota Sams is unbelievable,” head coach Kyle Tedder said.
The Bulldogs (7-10, 2-1) would hold on to that lead entering halftime up 24-18.
Junior Ryne Andreason helped Hermiston extend its advantage by scoring 11 of his 15 points in the first half. He finished with a team-best performance, and was the only player on Hermiston’s roster to reach double digits.
Turnovers and missed free throws were hurting the Buckaroos in the first half and despite matched Hermiston’s 11-point performance in the second, they still found themselves down by six at the break.
“A lot of it was known their personnel and knowing where there shooters are,” Tedder said of the team’s halftime adjustments.
The new found focus helped the Bucks return and outscore the Bulldogs 15-4 in the third quarter.
Pendleton switched from zone to man defense, and forced Hermiston into some uncomfortable shots. The uncharacteristically missed three’s and then struggling to stop the Bucks in transition hurt the Bulldogs’ chances of handing Pendleton its first league loss since 2016.
“It’s all about knowing who you’re playing against and what their strengths are and taking them away,” Tedder added.
Hermiston tried and succeed in taking its lead back in the final five minutes of play. Sophomore Andrew Earl came off the bench a hit all three of his free throws after senior Shaw Jerome fouled him on an attempt behind the arc. The three-point play tied the score at 36-36.
A minute later, senior Andrew James knocked the team’s first 3-pointer since the first quarter to put the Bulldogs up 39-38.
With 2:22 left in the game, senior Cesar Ortiz — who is normally knocking down multiple three’s a night — hit his lone bucket to again put Hermiston up by one, 42-41.
After Ortiz’s three, Hermiston’s next shot would come too late. The Bulldogs were down by seven points when junior Jordan Ramirez split defenders for a lay-in in the last four seconds of the game, and by then Pendleton had already secured its 15th consecutive CRC win.
Hermiston will have a quick turnaround and travel to The Dalles for a 7 p.m. tipoff Friday, while the Bucks will return home and host Hood River Valley at 7 p.m. Friday.
PHS 7 11 15 18 — 51
HHS 13 11 4 16 — 44
PENDLETON — T. Newsom 16, D. Sams 15, R. Scott 14, C. Sanford 2, D. Jackson 2, S. Jerome 2.
HERMISTON — R. Andreason 15, A. Mendez 8, A. James 6, J. Ramirez 5, A. Earl 4, P. Wicks 3, C. Ortiz 3.
3-pointers — PHS 1, HHS 3. Free throws — PHS 14-25, HHS 9-17. Fouls — PHS 15, HHS 22.
Contact Alexis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-564-4542. Follow her on Twitter @almansanarez.