In a game that was much closer than indicated by the final score, the Hood River Valley Eagles played well enough to win a Columbia River Conference boys basketball game against the Hermiston Bulldogs. If HRV (1-4 CRC, 1-13 overall) could've avoided a meltdown in the final minutes of a close contest, it might've been a little different outcome instead of another disappointing loss.
Hermiston (3-3, 4-12) capitalized on Eagle mistakes and outscored Hood River 13-2 in the final three minutes to pull out a 66-48 win Wednesday at Hood River Valley High School. The Eagles, guided by coach Steve Noteboom, dropped their fourth straight. HRV hopes to bounce back and get a road win when they meet the highly regarded (13th ranked) Pendleton Buckaroos (6-0, 13-4) at 7 p.m. Friday.
"I'm excited about the opportunity to hopefully see our team play much better in the remaining games on our schedule," said Noteboom, who changed his usual starting lineup a little Wednesday.
"We saw improved play in practice with some other guys, so we just wanted to see how they would perform in a starting role. I thought everyone competed hard, but we just have to pick up the pieces from this loss and try to keep moving forward and improving."
Junior forward Nick Weekly started for the first time this season instead of HRV's leading scorer Ryan Wheat (19 pts.), who came in off the bench. Utilizing a box and one defensive scheme in trying to contain Hermiston's leading scorer Alex Ortiz (18 points) certainly proved to be an effective strategy for HRV which jumped on top 8-0 over the Bulldogs and a surprised first-year coach Adam Strom.
Luke Kopecky (14 pts.), Cody Walker (two pts.) and Eli Fults (six pts.) each scored baskets in the Eagles' early offensive surge. HRV's momentum continued throughout the first quarter as they built a double-digit lead.
"I thought we had a great chance to win," said Kopecky. "We just needed to make one final offensive surge near the end in order to pull out a win, but we just couldn't do it. We'll just need to work a little harder in practice to improve some aspects of our game. We need to learn to handle the press more effectively and make better passes too so we can avoid making turnovers."
Hermiston came back from ten down in the second quarter and took its first lead at 26-25 with 3:07 remaining in the quarter.
The Eagles came out strong at the outset of the third with an 8-2 run, including a three-pointer by Wheat, who later sank a free throw with 4:47 left to give HRV a 36-34 lead. The Bulldogs responded with a 14-0 run to take control of the game. Hermiston took advantage of too many HRV missed shots, they created turnovers off their aggressive full-court press and got some easy transition baskets to jump in front after three 48-36.
"Hermiston shot much better than the earlier game we played against them and I'm sure they were really hoping to get the win," said
Noteboom, who noted that Alex Ortiz didn't play in the earlier matchup. "I thought that we did a nice job defensively in the first half in keeping the ball away from Alex Ortiz and he appeared to get a little frustrated. He's a talented player, though, and we just couldn't keep him under control later in the game."
A 7-2 Eagle run that included a strong move inside by senior forward Tory Schmidt (six pts.), whose offensive rebound and put-back jumper in the lane made it 51-41. Wheat's three-pointer from the top of the arc trimmed the margin to 53-46 with 3:29 left.
Hermiston though took control with a late rally to get the win. The Bulldogs' strong perimeter shooting was a key to their win as they fired in a total of eight three-pointers.