PENDLETON — A herd of Buckaroos students and fans swarmed the court after Friday’s 63-55 victory over the rival Hermiston Bulldogs. They danced in Hawaiian shirts, holding giant cutouts of their senior players’ faces and hoisting brooms into the air like celebratory swords after battle.
“We’re feeling wonderful,” said Buckaroo Chaz Madsen, one of several Pendleton players lost among the cheering sea for green and yellow after the game. “They beat us pretty good last year (to finish their sweep) but this was our year. And we took it.”
The Pendleton (19-4, 11-0 CRC) victory gave the Bucks a 4-0 record against Hermiston (6-15, 5-6 CRC) on the year — the reverse from last year’s relationship — but Friday’s didn’t come so easy. Pendleton won the first three games while leading for almost every second, but their most recent clash was tied through three quarters. Hermiston even held a 31-25 lead at halftime.
The game — and Hermiston’s season — were slipping away.
“We saw our season coming to an end,” Hermiston coach Adam Strom said of the untamed emotion that led to technical fouls on both sides and plenty of verbal daggers exchanged on the court.
Pendleton had played anxious early on, Polhamus said, feeling like they were the team that had things to lose. Hermiston’s postseason vacancy was likely determined regardless of the game’s outcome. It took Pendleton three quarters to shake the feeling but when they did, the Bucks soared out to a 12-point lead. The Dawgs were able to close the gap to six, but couldn’t regain their swagger from the first half. Even 21 points from Hermiston’s Alex Ortiz wasn’t enough to overcome the Pendleton machine.
“Everyone that touched the court, even the people on the bench, wanted to win this more than anything,” Ortiz said. “We wanted to win so bad, not just to make it to playoffs, but just to win against Pendleton.”
Polhamus and Madsen each scored 16 points to lead Pendleton. Madsen’s big night was briefly put on the back burner when the senior took a hard foul at the end of the third quarter. The forward staggered around the key, trying to take a place in the blocks to set up for the ensuing free throws. The problem? He was pegged to take the shots.
“I started yelling at the ref to try and get him out of (the game),” Pendleton coach David Norton said. “I didn’t want him getting more hurt.”
Madsen took his free throws anyway. He made 1-of-2.
The Bucks were able to keep their lead even after starters Deon Davis — 10 points — and Bryan Beard —five points with nine rebounds — fouled out. The foul trouble that had haunted Pendleton in the first half, when they committed 19, became a non-factor. They finished the game with 25, near a season high.
Jordan Turner scored 13 points to back up Alex Ortiz in Hermiston’s offense. Ortiz finished the day 11-of-12 shooting free throws, including four in a row at one point in the second quarter after a personal and technical foul on the Bucks.
Pendleton finishes its regular season against The Dalles Wahtonka on Tuesday. Hermiston goes to Hood River Valley.