HERMISTON — Whether it was the exhilaration of hosting an old rival or some Friday the 13th voodoo, the matchup of 10-4 Pendleton and 2-10 Hermiston was anything but a blowout.
For three quarters, Hermiston had put itself in place for a shocker.
But the under-Dawgs succumbed to the diverse scoring weapons of Pendleton in the fourth quarter as the Buckaroos — now 11-4, 3-0 in the Columbia River Conference — dodged the upset 53-45.
The favored Bucks got caught watching in the early part of the boys’ basketball game, said senior Buck Deon Davis. He didn’t anticipate having to fight off the Bulldogs that late in the contest
Hermiston (2-11, 1-2 CRC) hung around, keeping the game tied up until 5:35 remained before Pendleton finished things off on a 10-2 run. Hermiston’s 3-pointers that were on the money early on went silent.
Davis added the final touches with a steal on an in-bounds pass with four seconds left and followed that up with a tomahawk dunk that sent the fans who made the drive to Hermiston into a frenzy.
Pendleton’s slow start may have been aided by senior Pendleton guard Darius Polhamus’ absence in the first quarter. He sat a fourth of the game after breaking team protocol, coach David Norton said, but still scored a game-high 16 points.
The 6-foot-10 Bryan Beard wasn’t a point machine Friday with just nine but he did churn out rebounds like they were on an assembly line. The senior center grabbed 19 with nine coming on the offensive end.
The hot scoring hand of the night belonged to Chaz Madsen who went 6-for-6 from the floor for 12 points.
Despite the monster in the middle, Hermiston coach Adam Strom didn’t abandon his inside game plan. Players like guard Ramon Contreras drove to the basket while giving up 15 inches to the Pendleton center.
“He ran right at the big guy,” said Strom, a rare smile creeping out after the loss. “There’s a chance you’re going to get your shot blocked, but if you’re going to the big guy you can’t fade away. You have to go right at him.”
Beard blocked three shots on those type of drives. Hermiston’s high scorer came from the outside as Alonso Ortiz made four 3-pointers and finished with 14 points.
The Bucks swept their way through the first go around of Columbia River Conference games, beating all three opponents in the last week. Hermiston, beat only The Dalles Wahtonka in that circuit, which each team will repeat three more times.
“The first time around we were fortunate enough to beat all the teams but we’re going to need to play good defense to do that again,” Norton said.