MADRAS - With two legs of the Hermiston boys' basketball team's crucial road trip in the books, the Bulldogs had no intention of letting up against the Madras White Buffalos.
Executing at their most proficient level of the season, according to assistant coach Tim Zacharias, the Bulldogs pulled away late for a 69-55 win to sweep their three-game road swing.
The Buffalos (12-9, 8-4 IMC) have recently come back to earth after starting the conference slate 7-1. Including the 14-point defeat at the hands of Hermiston, they have dropped three of their last four, giving the Bulldogs (13-8, 8-4 IMC) a major leg up in the playoff race.
"It was a really big win for us on the road," Zacharias said. "We played a pretty disciplined game and probably turned the ball over at the lowest rate this season. It was obviously huge against their pressure defense."
Without the turnovers, Madras stagnated offensively and the Bulldogs rarely gave Madras' shooters an open look.
Offensively, Hermiston went into the game thinking Brad Irwin would be the focal point and he did not disappoint. Irwin scored a game-high 23 points and also racked up the assists by dishing to Johnny Kayembe (17 points) or Cody Humphrey (8) from the open spot at the free throw line.
Currently sitting in a tie for second, the next two games become crucial, starting with Pendleton Thursday.
"We're in a stretch where we're in must-win situations," Zacharias said. "There were maybe some doubters who didn't think we could get through that road swing. We got over that hurdle, but we can't let up at all."