The final score might not show it, but the Hermiston girls made Kennewick earn its win Friday night.
The Bulldogs were within seven points of the Lions three times in the fourth quarter, but Kennewick scored the final 12 points of the game for a 58-39 Mid-Columbia Conference win at the Dawg House.
“My frustration all season, was I was waiting for that energy and excitement to play,” Hermiston coach Juan Rodriguez said of his team. “That atmosphere in that stretch is why you play high school basketball. I was happy with that aspect. We need to make sure we are playing 32 minutes that way.”
The Lions (10-3 overall), who got a game-high 18 points from 6-foot-2 freshman Alexis Stein, improved to 7-2 in league play with the win.
After Hermiston’s Jayden Ray opened the game with a basket, Kennewick’s MeiLani McBee hit back-to-back 3-pointers, and Reilyn Davis added another as the Lions led 9-2 less than 3 minutes into the game.
The Bulldogs (5-8, 3-6) got a basket and two free throws from Mati Byrd to pull within 15-11, only to have Maya Thornton drain a 3 from the right baseline to extend the lead to 18-11 at the end of the quarter.
The Lions held the Bulldogs to six points in the second quarter, as they enjoyed a 29-17 lead at the half.
Kennewick’s lead ballooned to 16 points in the third quarter, but the Bulldogs scored the final six points of the quarter — including five by Kendall Dowdy — to pull within 41-31 with one quarter to play.
Hermiston had cut the deficit to under 10 points with 5:12 to play, but point guard Jazlyn Romero fouled out. She was soon followed by 6-4 post player Jordan Thomas.
The Lions scored eight of their final points from the free-throw line, and Stein put an exclamation point on the win with a basket with 14 seconds left on the clock.
Romero and Sydney Stefani led the Bulldogs with seven points each.
“You can’t say anything bad about that team,” Rodriguez said of Kennewick. “They are good defensively, and their post is good, and will be for a long time. They have a little more experience than we do at some positions.”