HERMISTON — Sophomore Jake Flyg proved his value in his first home start with the Hermiston boys’ varsity basketball team Tuesday night.
With team dynamo Alex Ortiz on the bench throughout most of the first half, Flyg drove the Bulldogs to a 31-26 halftime lead over Moses Lake (WA) behind 16 points. When Ortiz hit his stride in the second half, nothing could stop the Bulldogs (1-2) as they opened a large lead and cruised to a 76-60 non-conference victory.
“After I hit that first three I was fine,” said Flyg, who calmed his jitters by sinking baskets. “That’s when it started to turn on for me.”
Seemingly everything went right for the guard while shooting the ball before intermission. With 4.6 seconds left before the halftime buzzer, he took an in-bounds pass and launched a long 3-point shot from just past half court that swirled into the hoop. It was his third of five total 3-pointers on the night, which also included six assists and rebounds each.
Hermiston was badly outrebounded in the first half without Ortiz — one of the team’s tallest players at 6 feet 3 inches. Moses Lake (1-2) grabbed three times as many boards, 21-7, and had second-chance shooting opportunities on a majority of its possessions.
But Ortiz exploded on offense out of the locker room in the third quarter, sinking his first five baskets from all around the key.
“I have to step up for my team,” said Ortiz, a junior forward. “I can’t have a bad game and I didn’t come out and do my job in the first half so I made sure I did in the second.”
The only returning varsity starter, the Bulldogs will rely heavily on Ortiz this season. But at least for Tuesday night, he had a sidekick to his scoring in Flyg.
“I want him to do that every single game,” said Ortiz, who finished tied for the game high in scoring with Flyg at 24 points. “I’m pushing him and pushing him because he can do that every single game.”
Fouls nearly caught up with the Bulldogs in the latter half of the game. The home team committed 11 fouls in the second half before the fourth quarter even started. By the time they extended their lead to a game-high 19 points with four minutes to play, a handful of players were each dangerously close to finishing the game on the bench.
Six players ended up with three fouls or more, but none fouled out. That bulging foul total can sometimes happen in first-year coach Adam Strom’s style of defense, he said. They walked the line on Tuesday, but the real defensive issue was allowing the Chiefs to battle back late.
Moses Lake scored all of it fourth-quarter points in the final five minutes of the period.
“The ugly was the close-out of what should have been a good victory,” said Strom, who picked up his first victory as a Bulldog in the game. “We just resorted to poor habits offensively, which lead to poor habits defensively... It really was a discredit to what they did for three and a half quarters.”
Strom said he’s seen a lot of room for improvement through the first three games of the Bulldogs’ season even after the most recent victory. At the top of that list is understanding game scenario, closing the door on opponents at the end of contest and closing the rebounding gap.
Moses Lake won the boards battle by a mile, 42-19, and was led by senior Bryce Perez who had 12 rebounds to go with 23 points.