The Pasco Bulldogs watched nearly three quarters of work go down the drain Wednesday as Hermiston put in the big shots when they were needed and took a 56-52 girls basketball victory.
After Hermiston (3-0) shot out of the gates to a 12-2 lead in the first quarter, Pasco (3-1) spent the rest of the game inching its way back in. The contest came down to a 50-50 tie with two minutes remaining, and though Pasco took a quick 52-50 advantage it was the Bulldogs from south of the border who would have the last laugh.
Shoni Schimmel, who led Hermiston with 28 points but struggled to find her shot early, hit a crucial three to give her team the advantage. Teammate Sammantha McCloud then stole Pasco's inbound pass and dished it back to Schimmel, who scored the bucket, took a foul, and converted the three-point-play.
"I was just looking for the ball and I found it," McCloud said about the last-second nab to seal the game.
"When it came down to crunch time, the best player on the court wanted the ball and she hit the shots she needed," Pasco coach Steve Davis added.
Schimmel's game between the quick first quarter start and clutch fourth quarter performance was marginal, as evidenced by 11 turnovers and a bevy of missed three pointers. Hermiston coach Mike Royer said Pasco was well-prepared for the sophomore point guard after five meetings between the teams this summer.
"They were all over her all night," he said, "but she hit the big shot and Sam had the big steal. You could tell when it left her hands it was going in."
Aside from the cool-as-ice final moments, Hermiston's frenzied game plan saw both good and bad moments through the course of the game. Royer described the team's tempo as "hectic chaos up and down the floor", and he hopes to keep the pace up while cutting the turnovers down.
"We have to be a little smarter with the ball," he explained. "We're trying to play a fast tempo, full court game and it's going to get better."
The coach added the team also needs to learn how to protect a lead a little better by not trying to force passes or hurry things up late in the game.
Pasco's bench provided some trouble for Hermiston, with leading scorer Danielle Walker putting up 11 points from the pine and a steady stream of players subbing into the game to keep a fresh body on Schimmel. Hermiston's bench put in eight points, while first-year starter Hannah Whitsett showed a hot hand from the field with 11 points of her own.
Michelle Coombs led Hermiston with eight rebounds and Paige Davis had seven in her first home game of the season.
The Hermiston girls won't play at home again until Intermountain Conference play begins Jan. 4 against Crook County. Between now and then they will take on two more Washington teams in Walla Walla and Kamiakin and participate in both the Sherwood Yuletide Shootout and the Lake Oswego Interstate shootout.