The entire month of February had been a tough time for the HRV girls basketball team.
For a two-week stretch the Eagles had suffered five straight losses, all to Columbia River Conference opponents, and that winless stretch moved the girls to 1-7 in league play; tied for third place in the CRC standings with The Dalles heading into the final game of the regular season.
On Tuesday, Feb. 20 the HRV girls finally ended that five-game losing streak with a 44-43 home victory on senior night against The Dalles, giving the Eagles the 2-1 advantage in the season series over the Riverhawks.
“Getting that second win over The Dalles is always big,” said head coach Donnie Herneisen. “It’s something that HRV hasn’t been able to do in a number of years.”
Matter of fact, it’s been over four years since HRV has taken the season series over The Dalles.
The win ensured the Eagles the third seed in the final CRC standings, earning them a spot in a state play-in game next Tuesday, Feb. 27.
“Making it into a play-in game is also a huge milestone for us,” said Herneisen. “It shows that we are making progress and improving as a program.”
In the game on Tuesday night the Eagles knew that if they wanted their season to continue they were going to need a better showing in the opening quarter of this game compared to last; against Hermiston on Feb. 16 the girls were down 20-2 after one quarter.
And the Eagles absolutely had a better start in their game against The Dalles as they went into quarter two up 13-8.
After jumping out to a five-point lead, the Eagles were outscored by the Riverhawks 9-8 in the second and heading into halftime HRV’s lead was cut down to four-points, 21-17.
The first half performance by the girls, to jump out to an early lead, would become significant down the stretch of this game.
In the third quarter both teams went back-and-forth at one another, much like the second, but this time the Eagles would be the ones to finish the quarter on top as they outscored the Riverhawks 10-8.
The Eagles headed into the final quarter up 31-25.
The final quarter turned into a burst of scoring for both teams.
Paulina Finn, starting guard for The Dalles, hit a deep three in the beginning of the fourth and got fouled on another shot to convert an and-one play to tie the game at 31 with a few minutes remaining on the game clock.
The impressive shooting in the fourth continued for Finn as she went on to hit three more deep three’s, but the Eagles were able to answer each time with scoring from Haylee Baker, Hannah McNerney and Lauren Orr to eventually tie this game at 43 with under a minute remaining.
With 24 seconds left to go, McNerney was fouled and sunk a free throw to put HRV up 44-43.
The possession following the McNerney free throw, The Dalles missed a couple shots and the Eagles came up with the defensive rebound with 10 seconds remaining in the game.
HRV would then go to the free throw line with a chance to push the Eagles’ lead to two or three, but the first free throw would come up short and The Dalles would grab the rebound.
Finn, who was riding a hot-hand, got a look at another deep three but couldn’t connect; giving HRV the 44-43 victory at home on senior night.
With this being the Eagles’ first win in six tries, Herneisen explained that what they saw from their opponent on Tuesday wasn’t anything new, “We really didn’t see anything different this time around compared to our previous five games.”
“The Dalles played a zone defense nearly the entire game, which we’ve struggled against,” said Herneisen. “We had to find ways to score and play good defense against Finn. Outside of Finn hitting those threes in the fourth, we did a pretty good job of limiting her. We also had some girls step up and make shots to fairly balance out our scoring. Luckily, we came out on top this time.”
HRV game leaders: Orr led the Eagles in scoring and rebounding with 12 and 18, including 11 offensive rebounds. McNerney was the Eagles’ second leading scorer with 11 and she led the team in steals with four. Ashlynn Dawson (9), Baker (8) and Barrett Ihde (4) were the other HRV scorers against The Dalles.
It isn’t confirmed just yet, but it looks like on Tuesday, Feb. 27 the girls will be traveling to Milwaukie for their play-in game.
Earlier this season the girls played Milwaukie on the road and came away with a 35-34 victory, which at the time improved the Eagles to 6-3 on the season.
However, both the girls and Herneisen know that another game at Milwaukie isn’t going to be an easy task. “They will be very tough,” said Herneisen. “We will have a huge challenge to come away with another win.”
Before the Eagles head to Milwaukie, Herneisen expressed his thoughts on the season and the difference between this year’s girls team and the year’s past, “This has been a great group of girls to work with this season,” said Herneisen. “We owe a lot to our two graduating seniors, Orr and McNerney, as they’ve helped move this program back in the right direction and we’ll miss them a lot next year.”
“The major difference between this year’s girls and year’s past is just the level of experience these girls have,” said Herneisen. “We aren’t where we should be, as a community and program, as far as playing experience goes, but this group has moved the bar up a little bit. It will be our challenge, as a community and a program, to keep raising it in the future.”