HERMISTON - It's been a rollercoaster ride thus far for the Hermiston Bulldog boys basketball squad who hosts Mountain View at 7 p.m. Friday in an Intermountain Conference game.

The Bulldogs have been a mystery thus far with an up-and-down season, but believe it or not, the Bulldogs trail Redmond by just one game in the IMC after a 53-42 victory over rival Pendleton last week.

"I told the kids after the ballgame, if we'd be that mentally prepared to play every ball game, then we would be a lot better off record-wise," Hermiston head coach Larry Usher said after the victory over Pendleton.

Picked to finish second in the IMC in the Bend Bulletin's annual IMC boys basketball coaches poll prior to league play, the Bulldogs are living up to expectations in the middle of a four-game win streak.

Hermiston (10-7 overall, 5-2 IMC) still has several challenges ahead of it in the second half of conference play and the Bulldogs will begin with an attempt to avenge a 52-51 loss to Mountain View Jan. 10.

The Bulldogs opened IMC play at Mountain View (7-12 overall, 5-4 IMC), but were short-handed due to disciplinary reasons and Hermiston failed to convert the winning shot three times in the final 26 seconds.

Jesse Hollander led the way for the Cougars with 14 points and Mark Carollo paced the Bulldogs with a game-high 15 points in the Jan. 10 meeting. Hollander is the IMC's 12th-leading scorer at 12.3 points per game and Mark Carollo is 13th, averaging 12.0 points per game.

"We will have to handle their pressure," Usher said. "They play in a lot of low-scoring games from their press and used pressure defense on us all game last time."

Hermiston point guard Jake Burns has come into his own of late, scoring a game-high 15 points in the win over Pendleton and a game-high 19 points last week in a win over Hood River Valley. Usher believes Burns will help the Bulldogs handle the Cougar pressure and lift the Bulldogs Friday night.

"He has been playing really big," Usher said. "I think the one thing that's turned it around for him is he decided to be a lot more aggressive with the basketball."

Mountain View comes off a much-needed victory over Bend in overtime last week, outscoring the Lava Bears 8-0 in overtime and sit one game out of the fourth and final playoff spot in the IMC. The Cougars are also in the midst of a a four-game win streak after knocking off Summit 70-60 Tuesday.

"Mountain View likes to play pretty physical," Usher said. "Playing at home I think the kids are more rested, and they should be ready for the challenge."

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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