PENDLETON - With 5:06 remaining in the third quarter, Hermiston junior point guard Ramiro Alatorre went to the bench with his fourth foul. By the end of the hotly contested Intermountain Conference showdown, Pendleton fans wish he'd stayed put.
Alatorre scored 13 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter Saturday, going a perfect 6-of-6 from the free throw line in the final period to lead the Bulldogs to a 62-57 victory over the Buckaroos on Warberg Court.
"I wasn't playing very smart," Alatorre said about his four quick fouls. "It's not really fun sitting on the bench, but when you have teammates that can do it on their own, it's pretty good."
In a tightly officiated contest, Hermiston (11-7, 9-1 IMC) was clutch from the charity stripe when it mattered, downing their final nine free throws.
"We went into the game focusing on small things and free throws are one of those things you need get it done," said Pendleton senior guard Trevor Patterson, who led the Bucks (8-8, 5-5) with 18 points and six rebounds. "I think we did a good job down the stretch, but throughout the whole game, free throws really got us. Missing the first half of those early one-and-ones really came to bite us in the end."
The Bucks led by as many as seven late in the second quarter, but the Bulldogs cut the lead to four heading into half on a Sam Grogan jumper before time expired.
"I was nervous right off the bat," said Grogan, who scored 16 points.
"I threw up in my mouth (before the game), and thought I was going to puke."
One thing that may have settled Hermiston's collective stomach was the large contingent of Bulldog fans that made the trip across Umatilla County for the latest installment of the hardwood showdown.
"Ramiro said during pregame, 'we're playing at home,'" joked Hermiston senior Ricardo Amezcua. "The stadium was packed with our fans."
The Bulldogs held the Bucks to just nine points in the third quarter, tying the contest at 39 heading into the pivotal fourth.
"What we did in the first half seemed to work," said Pendleton junior Bobby Corey, who scored seven points and grabbed five rebounds in defeat. "We pressured the guards well, but we kind of came out slow and sluggish in the second. Plus, we didn't hit our free throws down the line and they did."
In a game that saw 13 lead changes and nearly 50 fouls between the two rivals, the Bulldogs shook off a 4-of-21 clip from behind the 3-point line to sink 17 of their 28 foul shots to preserve the win
"In a game like that, where it's close from the get-go and each team puts together a couple runs, free throws tend to do it," said Pendleton coach Stu Clem.
Hermiston's bench scored eight points in the contest.
"Our bench was huge tonight," said Hermiston coach Larry Usher. "We had guys that stepped on the floor that were mentally and physically ready to go whenever we called on them. Whether it was for five minutes or one minute or 20 seconds, guys had their heads in the game."
Hermiston shot 3 of 13 (23 percent) from the field in the opening period, but rallied to shoot 15 of 26 down the stretch to earn the conference win and remain in at least a tie for the IMC lead.
"I'd like to say after we win in Pendleton, it's like winning a home game against Hood River, but its not," Usher said.
HHS (11-7, 9-1) 12 14 13 23 - 62
PHS (8-8, 5-5) 13 17 9 18 - 57
HERMISTON - Alatorre 25, Grogan 16, Amezcua 6, Eldrige 4, Zweifelhofer 4, Smith 4, Ross 3.
PENDLETON - Patterson 18, Talbott 10, Corey 7, West 7, Schimmel 5, Smootz 4, Whitten 4, Beamer 2.
3-point field goals - Hermiston 4-21, Pendleton 3-11. Free throws - Hermiston 17-28, Pendleton 19-30. Fouls - Hermiston 24, Pendleton 23. Fouled out - Smith, Ross, Grogan (Hermiston). Technicals - None.