A week after the HRV boys basketball team opened league play in losing fashion at home to Pendleton by a final score of 63-49, they welcomed Hermiston to town Jan. 26 for both teams’ second league game of the season.
Despite HRV being up by double-digits heading into the fourth, the boys would end up losing to Hermiston by a final score of 77-74, dropping the Eagles to 0-2 in league play.
Friday night’s game was a tough loss for these boys to swallow as they led in every quarter besides the most important one, the fourth.
The boys opened the game with a major focus on the defensive end of the court and were able to make Hermiston uncomfortable.
Hermiston would be held to only 10 points in the first quarter and the boys were ahead 17-10 after the first eight minutes of game-time.
“When we get a lead early, the team plays as a team, we have leadership on the court, and they play the way we all know they are capable of playing,” said Head Coach Christopher Dirks. “One of the biggest things we keep stressing in practice is that support for your teammates goes a long way. When things are going well, and guys are supporting and encouraging each other we get on a roll. When the game gets a little more stressful, we start to forget that.”
That focus to play team ball began to fade out in the second for the Eagles as they allowed Hermiston to put up 22 unanswered points in the second quarter, mostly due to poor decisions with the ball that allowed the Bulldogs to get out and run.
“We got away from team play a little bit,” said Dirks. “In those moments, we really need to slow down and execute what we want to do. Once we start getting the tempo back to where we want it, we can go on runs ourselves.”
Although the Bulldogs outscored the Eagles 22-16 in the second, HRV was still up 33-32 at halftime thanks to a three by junior guard Carson Flores with four seconds remaining in the second quarter.
In the third quarter, the Eagles outscored the Bulldogs 25-16 and had all the momentum heading into the fourth after senior wing Tanner Wells knocked down a three from the corner at the buzzer to take a 58-48 lead heading into the final quarter of play.
“This was the first time in awhile that we have outscored our opponent in the third quarter this season,” said Dirks. “As a coaching staff, we changed our approach to halftime and I think it helped a little with our third quarter execution.”
Hermiston opened the fourth on an 8-3 run and with four minutes remaining, Hermiston made it a one-point HRV lead after grabbing three offensive rebounds in a row and finally getting a basket on the fourth attempt, 64-63.
Senior wing Trenton Hough would respond with a floater on the other end to go up 66-63, but Hermiston would come right back and hit a three to tie this game up at 66-66 with 3:33 left.
After both sides were unable to score the ball for the next couple of minutes, Hermiston had the ball with just under 1:30 remaining.
As Hermiston dribbled the ball up court, an HRV elementary school boys travel ball team in attendance begins to start up the chant, “Defense!”
The HRV crowd slowly begins to follow the chant and next thing you know, Vannet Court is rocking. The beachers would amplify the chant as they were taking a beating from the feet of HRV supporters.
As loud as it may have ever been in Vannet Court for a basketball game, it had never been silenced so quickly.
Hermiston knocked down a deep three to not only take a 69-66 lead with 1:25 left remaining, but it would also take some of the soul out of this HRV crowd.
HRV called a timeout after the three and came out only to turn the ball right back over to Hermiston.
Hermiston’s ability to knock down free throws at the end of the game and HRV’s inability to control the ball, put this game away early in the fourth. Chances at the free throw line was ultimately how the Bulldogs left Hood River with a 77-74 win.
“There were a few small things in that fourth quarter that were deciding factors in the game. A few rebounds we didn't get and a few turnovers in clutch moments,” said Dirks. “Again, if we can control those situations and do what we want to do rather than play our opponent’s game, we turn these games into wins. We feel as though we can beat any team in our conference, but we need to prove that. I believe that we will show that.”
For the Eagles, they’re currently on a three-game losing streak and begin Columbia River Conference play with two home losses versus Pendleton and Hermiston.
What may be the biggest game of the season for the boys was on Jan. 30 on the road against The Dalles, with both teams heading into this game at 0-2 in league play (results unavailable at press time).
A win in The Dalles could be the much-needed confidence boost HRV desperately needs with six league games remaining if they want to make a push to get into the state tournament, but with a loss, there is a strong chance that the boys basketball team ends another year disappointed in the outcome of their season.