HERMISTON - Playing without its second leading scorer for nearly the entire game, Hermiston was unable to extend its win streak to 18 games Friday in a Class 4A state sub-tournament boys basketball game.
Benson took advantage of Hermiston's foul situation drilling 21 of 28 free throw attempts to secure a 62-50 victory.
"Our kids played hard enough to win and smart enough to win, but we had some unfortunate breaks," Hermiston coach Larry Usher said. "I truly believe our kids deserved to win that basketball game."
The Techmen (20-6) ended Hermiston's season, which included an Intermountain Conference championship for the first time since 1983. Benson advanced to the quarterfinals where it will face Westview on Thursday in Eugene.
"I think, defensively, our pressure and speed factor were very important for us," said Benson coach Troy Berry of the key differences of the game. "Hermiston played a very good game, and they had a great game plan.
"We had problems with a lot of things they were doing defensively."
Senior starter Juan Rodriguez saw limited action as he was saddled with foul trouble the entire contest.
"It was frustrating to have a senior who has contributed all season like Juan has and have to sit him because of foul trouble," Usher said. "But it was nice to have kids come off the bench and play well in his absence."
Rodriguez played sparingly in the first half as he was whistled for his second foul with 6:30 left in the first quarter, and he then picked up his third at the 5:02 mark in the second quarter.
The 6-foot-3 senior, who has been a catalyst for the team the entire season, was called for his fourth foul with 7:51 left in the third quarter. He eventually fouled out with 5:31 left in the game.
"We have mixed emotions," Hermiston senior Paul Carollo said after the game. "It was frustrating with Juan out of the game, and it hurt us."
Despite having one of its senior leaders on the bench, Hermiston built a 24-19 lead on a Nathan Wicks layup midway through the second quarter. The Techmen, however, closed the first half on a 10-0 run for a 29-24 halftime advantage and never trailed again.
"It's a tough way to end the season," said Wicks, who replaced Rodriguez when he went to the bench. "We knew we could beat them, especially after he had the lead. But we let down."
Jeremy Lathan led the Techmen with 16 points, including seven in the fourth quarter.
"(Lathan's) quick and he took control of the game in the second half for them," Usher said.
Carollo, who was named the IMC's Player of the Year, played like a warrior in the low-post area, scoring a game-high 27 points to go with 10 rebounds.
"He was impressive and looked like a college player to me," Berry said. "I don't know where he's going, but I'm sure there are a lot of college coaches that would like to have him."
Carollo did everything in his power to keep the Bulldogs close in the fourth quarter, scoring 11 points.
"I was just trying to be aggressive," Carollo said.
Carollo hit a bucket with 3:28 remaining in the game to make it 50-46, but Hermiston would get no closer as Benson slowly pulled away for the victory.
"I think we took better care of the basketball in the second half and made better decisions," Berry said. "We made our free throws, and I think Jeremy stepped up in the second half and carried us."
The Bulldogs' streak of 17 straight wins dated back to December. Despite the loss, the talk after the game from Hermiston players and coaches was that they felt they could have beat Benson.
"I think we've accomplished a lot more than anybody thought, and we're proud of that," Hermiston senior Scott Logan said. "You don't want to end the season with a loss, but I don't think we have anything to hang our heads about."
Notes: Benson outrebonded Hermiston 28-24. ... The Techmen were whistled for 19 fouls, while Hermiston was called for 29. ... The Bulldogs will lose Carollo, Ryan Bell, Logan, Rodriguez, Taylor Smith and Wicks to graduation.