Hermiston coach Juan Rodriguez has pleaded with his team all season to feed the ball inside to 6-foot-4 post Jordan Thomas. Friday night, the Bulldogs did just that.

Thomas finished with a game-high 21 points to lead Hermiston to a 52-43 Mid-Columbia Conference victory over Hanford at the Dawg House.

“It’s happening,” Rodriguez said of utilizing Thomas more. “Other players made some good plays too.”

Hermiston (7-10, 5-8 MCC), which already has secured a regional playoff berth, beat the Falcons (2-16, 1-13) for the second time this season.

The Bulldogs controlled the game from the start, with Thomas scoring the first five points. They led 14-0 before Abby Robinson got the Falcons on the board with 45 seconds remaining.

Mati Byrd added a basket for Hermiston, and Sarah Ellis scored for Hanford with two seconds left for a 16-4 game at the end of the first.

“First, we wanted to come out and suck the energy out of them, and not let them steal some early baskets,” Rodriguez said. “Second, we did not want to put them at the free-throw line. The first half was good.”

The two teams played a pretty even game the rest of the way. Thomas has 10 points in the second half, while Jazlyn Romero scored seven of her nine in the first half.

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Byrd scored six points off the bench, and Jayden Ray scored five of her seven points in the second half.

Hermiston committed only one foul in the first half, keeping the Falcons off the free-throw line. Hanford shot all four of its free throws in the fourth quarter, making each one.

Iliana Moran led the Falcons with 13 points. She was the only player in double figures.

“Our zone was a little more aggressive,” Rodriguez said. “We preach deflection.”

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