The Hermiston boys will get their biggest test of the season when the Richland Bombers visit Friday night for a Mid-Columbia Conference showdown.
The Bulldogs (8-1 overall, 4-1 MCC), who are No. 5 in the MaxPreps 3A rankings, have not seen the likes of the Bombers (8-2, 6-0) this season.
Richland, which has won seven games in a row, has four players scoring 12 points or more a game, with Cole Northrop averaging 23.8 points a night.
“We have our hands full,” Hermiston coach Casey Arstein said. “They are the real deal. They have height, one of the best shooters in the league in Cole Northrop, and Cody Sanderson is a good defender. They are a team that gets points in a hurry.”
Hermiston is no slouch when it comes to putting the ball in the basket.
Ryne Andreason is averaging 20.22 points a game, while long-range threat Cesar Ortiz is scoring 13.56 and Jordan Ramirez 10.22.
“It will be interesting,” Richland coach Earl Streufert said. “They have good fan support. We are excited to play someone different. We played a really good nonleague schedule against good teams from Utah and Jefferson of Portland. We have had it easy in league so far. We have a lot of experience. We are solid again this year, just smaller.”
The Bombers graduated 7-foot-4 Riley Sorn, but Garrett Streufert is 6-6, and Northrop is 6-4, as is Jack Schuster, who is offering 7.4 points and a handful of rebounds a game.
“In a lot of ways, we are better than we were last year,” said coach Streufert, who is in his 20th year with the Bombers. “We are better defensively. Dhaunye (Guice) has really improved, Jack has come along and is shooting 60 percent. They share the ball like crazy and we play fast enough to get everyone possessions. Good problems to have.”
Though the Bulldogs are ready to get back to action, this weekend will be tough with Cole Smith injured and Blake Davis out with strep throat.
“It’s time to get busy with some games,” Arstein said. “We’ve been working hard, but Cole is out with an ankle injury and is not cleared to play. He is one of our most consistent players. This really challenges our depth. Hopefully we can get him back soon. Until then, we work with what we have. We will compete for 32 minutes.”
After battling Richland, Hermiston will hit the road to play at Kamiakin on Saturday.
The Braves (5-4, 2-3), led by 6-8 Kyson Rose’s 11.6 points a game, are averaging 56 points a game, while the Bulldogs are at 68.
“They are young (three seniors), but they are a solid team,” Arstein said. “Kamiakin is going to be a tough matchup. We have played them before, and it’s a tough place to play.”
MCC Girls Basketball
The Hermiston girls’ games will be the opposite of the boys. Richland (5-5, 2-4) is in the middle of the pack with the Bulldogs (4-5, 2-3), while the Braves (9-0, 5-0) are ranked No. 2 among 3A schools.
Kamiakin is led by Butler-bound Oumou Toure, who is averaging a conference-high 20.56 points a game.
The Braves also have a wealth of experience with four-year starter Alexa Hazel (11.78 points), Rylie Clark and 5-11 Symone Brown (11 points), and sophomore Regan Clark adding 11.6 points a game.
“I don’t want that to end,” Kamiakin coach Lane Schumacher said of losing his talented group of seniors at the end of the season. “You can’t completely concentrate on Oumou because we have so many other players who can score. That has been nice to have.”
Schumacher is concerned with with trying to contain Hermiston’s 6-4 center Jordan Thomas, who is averaging 15 points a game.
“She is putting up points and causing teams some problems,” Schumacher said. “We aren’t near as big, and she’s bigger than what we are used to. We have to try to make things happen on the defensive end. We have to get down the floor and not let them set up.”
If the Bulldogs can’t get the ball inside, sophomore Jazlyn Romero loves to the launch from beyond the arc. She’s averaging 11.6 points a game. Kaylee Young and Jayden Ray also can hit the 3, and sophomore Kendall Dowdy adds a presence inside.
“I’m glad they are in the league,” Schumacher said. “They have always been competitive.”