Friday night’s basketball game in Hermiston played out like a template for any time a 20-win team hosts a 20-loss team. The hopeful underdog — a scrappy but clearly overmatched St. Helens squad in this one — comes out a-blazing early before an avalanche from the favored team — represented by the Bulldogs in this reenactment — crushes their hopes and dreams.
And so ends the 2011-12 season for the St. Helens Lions (3-22, 1-13 Northwest League) by the hands of Hermiston (20-5, 12-0 Columbia River Conference) in a 73-29 flogging in the play-in round of the Class 5A state playoffs. Hermiston moves on to the next round and will host another postseason game next Friday evening. A win there punches their ticket to Eugene and the quarterfinals of the state tournament to be held the week after.
“We think it’s a game that probably shouldn’t be played,” Hermiston coach Steve Hoffert said. “You’d hate to have one of your top teams play somebody who won three games or two games and have an injury...I just think it’s not necessary.”
The Lions contended in the first quarter, trailing just 16-10 at the first break. It’s the latest in a season-long issue for Hermiston, a team plagued by slow starts. The team was a step off its shooting game, except for guard Jeni Hoffert, who made all three of her shots for eight points in the quarter.
Hermiston poured the offense on after that point, scoring a 2:1 ratio on the Lions. Senior Maloree Moss, the game’s high scorer with 16 points, knows the level that this team can perform at once they heat up. They’ll need to get to that point sooner, though.
“We definitely need to fix that for next game because against a higher quality team, we’re not going to be able to come back after a slow start,” Moss said.
Jeni Hoffert finished just behind Moss with 14 points and Gracie Flyg led the team with 11 rebounds.
St. Helens’ top point producer was 6-foot-1 post Monique Smiley, who scored 11 points and also brought down nine boards in the loss.
In playing a team they were supposed to beat by a wide margin, the Bulldogs wanted to work on things for later in the playoffs, Flyg said. The team’s main focus was a new-look pressure defense that they wanted to debut after conference play. Future opponents won’t have much to draw from in preparation, then.