Missed opportunities lead to league debut heartbreaker for HRV girls

Bucks edge Eagles 51-48 in HR

With possession, a three-point lead, and under a minute to go, it looked like the HRV girls basketball team was about to pull off an upset over the Pendleton Buckaroos, and win their first league game in nearly five years.

However, a series of untimely turnovers, missed free throws, and flubbed defensive rebounds doomed the Eagles (6-5, 0-1 Columbia River Conference) in their home debut against the Bucks (4-5, 1-0), who defeated HRV 51-48 in Hood River Friday night. It was the first game in 15 days for HRV, as the weather has made attempts to host teams or travel to games — or even hold practice — an exercise in futility.

It was another frustrating game for the Eagles, who have seen four of their five losses this season come by five points or fewer. The loss to Pendleton marked the second time this season HRV has dropped a game by three points.

HRV Head Coach Donnie Herneisen said Friday’s league opener was another instance “where experience counts,” as a young Eagles team showed they still needed to “learn how to play with a lead in crunch time.” Still, Herneisen gave kudos to the Bucks for their performance.

“Give the Buckaroos credit — they made plays at the end of the game,” he said.

The two teams slugged it out through 32 minutes as neither team could gain a lasting advantage over the other. Pendleton outscored HRV 10-9 in the first and held a 25-21 lead at the half. HRV dogged the Bucks the entire game and found another gear in the second half, outscoring Pendleton 17-14 to trail the Bucks by one at the end of the third quarter, then building a four-point lead late in the fourth before Pendleton rallied for the win.

In a tight game, free throws proved to be the difference-maker for HRV. The Bucks made more free throws (21-for-30, 70 percent) than the Eagles even attempted (8-for-20, 40 percent). Meanwhile, the team’s three-point shooting was beyond reproach, as the team hit eight of their 17 attempts from beyond the arc (47 percent). Sophomore wing Emily Curtis was responsible for half of those and led the team with 18 points. Haylee Baker was second in team scoring with 10.

Although the result was disappointing, HRV can take heart in the fact that this was the closest the Eagles have come to beating a CRC opponent since they lost 31-29 to Pendleton on the road on Feb. 12, 2012.

“I’m not really a big believer in ‘moral victories,’ but this game was definitely a sign of the progress we’ve made this year,” Herneisen admitted. “Last season, HRV lost to Pendleton by 50, 20, and 40 points in three games. Given the weather conditions, missed practice days, and cancelled competitions, I thought we played really well.”

HRV will look to take advantage of Hermiston (6-7) on Thursday in Hood River at 7 p.m., as the Bulldogs will be playing their third game in four days. However, Herneisen knows that even with a busy schedule, Hermiston will be a difficult team to play.

“They are bigger, faster, and have played a tougher schedule. Same old Hermiston, even though their record is not as good as it has been in the past,” he noted. “They are going to be a tall order for us, but our girls are gaining confidence every game. I’m excited to see how we play with them.”

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