HERMISTON - In the midst of an unexpected two-game slide in the Intermountain Conference, the Hermiston Bulldog girls basketball squad will try to turn things around at home against Bend and Redmond.

Bend (7-14, 4-7 IMC) visits Hermiston at 7 tonight, and the No. 1 team in the IMC, Redmond (17-3, 9-1 IMC), will attempt a season sweep of Hermiston at 2:45 p.m. Saturday.

The Bulldogs (16-4, 7-3 IMC) come off a disappointing overtime loss to Mountain View last week. They've lost three of their last six IMC contests.

"We need to start playing well and get back on track," Hermiston head coach Mike Royer said. "We want to get in sync offensively."

The Bulldogs handed Bend a 50-26 loss in the first meeting Jan. 17, but coach Royer warned that Bend is "improved and playing teams better in the second half."

Bend is led by the IMC's sixth leading scorer, Kari Cox, who averages 11.3 points per game. Cox scored 12 points in the loss to Hermiston, and Whitney Malkin added nine points.

"Friday is a must win for us," Royer said. "We need to get more people involved offensively."

Hermiston will have its hands full with Redmond Saturday, trying to avenge a 73-53 Jan. 18 loss to the Panthers. The Bulldogs found themselves in early foul trouble in that loss and struggled with Aundrea Morrison and Charlene Shirley on the bench most of the game.

"Redmond poses match-up problems for us," Royer explained. "They have a lot of girls that can shoot the ball."

Nicole Hudson leads the Panthers in scoring with 13.3 points per game. Jessi Schaumburg adds 12.1 points per contest and Darcee Perdue dumps in 10.4 points per game. All three are among the top 10 IMC scoring leaders and have led Redmond to the No. 1 offense in the conference at 67.9 points per game.

"We need players to step up. We can't give them easy transition buckets," Royer explained.

The Bulldogs hold their opponents to a conference best 37.6 points per game and Redmond gives up 53.8 points per contest.

Morrison comes off a 19-point performance against Mountain View but was held to just nine points in the loss at Redmond. Morrison leads the IMC in scoring with 13.9 points per game.

"We must handle the pressure of Redmond," Royer stressed. "They will press and trap and we must keep our turnovers down."

Shirley is the IMC's eighth leading scorer at 10.2 points per game. Brittany White averages 7.3 points per contest, but she scored 16 points in the loss to Redmond.

"If we win both games this weekend it would mean a lot to this team," Royer added. "The girls play pretty well at home and it should help us out."

Sports reporter Joe McHaney can be reached at 1-800-522-0255 (ext. 1-236) or by e-mail at jmchaney@eastoregonian.com.

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