PENDLETON — After blowing up the Bucks by nearly 40 points in their game in Hermiston 10 days ago, the middle match in a set of three this season, the Bulldogs knew better than to expect a similar showing on Friday in Pendleton.
But a 21-10 hole half way through the second quarter? Even that was a little surprising.
Hermiston narrowed the gap to 23-17 by halftime and drove its way to the basket for 33 second-half points in a 50-40 Columbia River Conference victory at Warberg Court to complete the sweep of its rival.
“We knew it’s their home so they’re going to be making shots that they normally don’t,” Hermiston’s Mckenzie Byrd said. “We needed to keep that in mind and keep our composure. We got a little rattled at first but I think we picked it up in the end.”
Friday, “picking it up” meant Byrd and fellow post Shelby Sanders picking apart the Bucks’ inside defense in the second half. Hermiston shot 2-of-10 from 3-point range in the first half, and generally avoided in the paint unless the possession featured an offensive rebound.
That only helped Pendleton (10-13, 4-5 CRC) concoct its early success.
“Too many, too many,” Hermiston coach Steve Hoffert said of all the first-half outside shots. “We talked about that (at halftime). We don’t need to jack up a 3 every time we have a look, because that’s what they wanted. ... We needed to get the ball closer, we needed to change out offense.”
Byrd scored 10 of her 15 points in the second half and Sanders netted each of her 10 after the half as the Bulldogs (14-8, 8-1 CRC) committed themselves to penetrating to the basket.
And even if the first looks weren’t falling, Hermiston quickly grew accustomed to second chances. As a team, Hermiston nabbed 21 offensive rebounds, part of a 40-board night. A one-rebound advantage in favor of the Dawgs at halftime turned into a deficit of a dozen by the end of the game.
Byrd finished with 17 rebounds, seven offensively.
“I told the girls in the locker room, that was the only part of the plan, the only part that we didn’t do a great job of, was keeping Byrd off the glass,” Pendleton coach Aaron Schmidt said. “And that really hurt us. I can’t say anything else that hurt us tonight, I really can’t.”
Freshman point guard Jansen Edmiston complemented Hermiston’s inside game with 10 points of her own and picked up four steals on defense.
The Bucks found success early by avoiding the key, or at least as shooters. Pendleton scored its first 11 points on drives straight up the gut and kick-outs to the corner for longer jumpers. In fact, Pendleton’s first three baskets were all shot from within a few feet of each other near the left corner.
Two of those buckets were Rayne Spencer 3-pointers, her only points of the night.
But the Bulldogs soon grew wise, cutting off the drive-and-dish. And when the Bucks’ two main point guards, Lainey Corbett and Darian Lindsey, found foul trouble and had to spend time on the bench, Hermiston capitalized on the slowed Bucks’ offense.
Still, the lead would change hands five times in the second half as Pendleton kept it close. Pendleton’s 5-of-7 shooting performance from 3-range helped earn the Bucks a fourth-quarter lead even, a vast improvement over their 65-28 drubbing in Hermiston on Feb. 5.
Ellie Richards would lead Pendleton with 10 points and Charmayne Robinson had eight. Corbett finished with seven points, four assists and three steals.
The Bulldogs and Bucks will now both look on to state playoffs with the regular season completed. Hermiston, ranked seventh by the OSAA, will receive a bye through the play-in round, but will have to endure two weeks off before its next contest.
Still, a big win like Friday’s rivalry victory can do a lot for the girls, Hermiston’s Hoffert said. Hopefully they’ll be able to hold onto it for that long.
“It just gives us that stability,” he said. “We can come into hostile territory and still win not playing great.”
Pendleton, ranked 18, will go on the road in the play-in round. If rankings hold where they were at publication time, the Bucks will go to face Liberty (12-10) on Tuesday, Feb. 26.
Contact AJ Mazzolini at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-966-0839.