HERMISTON — A short-handed Hermiston Bulldogs basketball team lost to Hanford (WA) 63-50 on Tuesday, playing its home opener at Hermiston High without four key players out on suspension.
Hermiston starters Alex Ortiz, Alonso Ortiz and Jake Flyg, along with junior forward Cole Schwirse, were suspended indefinitely for behavior that conflicted with Hermiston’s student-athlete code of conduct. The alleged incident occurred this past weekend while the Bulldogs were in Lewiston, Idaho, at the Inland Cellular Bengal Shootout tournament.
Head Coach Adam Strom said coaches and school administers haven’t determined how much time the players will miss. Strom has promoted a slew of junior varsity players to fill in the gaps for now.
Junior Ramon Contreras stole a Hanford pass before dishing the ball out to Nico Calderon for a 3-pointer to cut the Falcons’ advantage to 36-33 before Hermiston got the ball back again. This time Contreras did the job himself with a drive and lay-up to set the score at 36-35.
It was the closest Hermiston would come. Hanford proceeded into a 10-point run that closed the quarter and the Bulldogs’ chances for their second win on the season.
“I think it showed our maturity level being pretty young,” Strom said. “It was like we climbed to the top of the hill, looked over and kind of fell over again.”
The home team’s energy level was high at the beginning, likely because of so many players getting their first varsity action, Strom said. But maintaining that intensity against a fast moving Hanford (2-0) team was a lot to ask of the young players.
“Coming out of the locker room we were excited. The energy level was pretty high and adrenaline was going with the first time for some of those guys to hear their names announced in pregame. That must have sent them through the roof,” Strom said. “We played off that energy for the better part of the first half.”
Then Hanford victimized the Bulldogs behind their youth, throwing different pressure looks at the Hermiston ball handlers. The half-court traps pushed Hermiston into 22 turnovers in the game.
“They played really hard, scrapped at home and took it to us a little bit, but what I told the guys at halftime was that we’re a veteran team and we’ve seen this before,” Hanford coach Paul Meyer said. “The pressure defense is something we’re going to do this season and it helped us get some guys to step up.”
CJ Flores led Hermiston with 14 points and Contreras was right behind with another 10 to go with five assists. Dillon Zimmerly, one of the six JV call-ups, added five points.
Hermiston struggled to get into its regular offense with so many unfamiliar players forced into action together. The Bulldogs resorted to hucking the 3-ball, shooting 7-of-16 from long range to help keep them in the game.
A few dribble-drive plays and quick passes led to hoops for Hermiston, but those moments were flashes in the night as the Bulldogs put the ball into Hanford hands on too many possessions.
“At first it was alright, I think we played pretty good,” Contreras said of the team’s offense, a group taped together in just three days for this game. “But as it went on, it was clear that they were kind of lost, didn’t know what was going on at times.”
Hanford’s Jalen Watson scored 14 to lead his team and Kendall Watson and Joe Douglas each put up 12 points. Douglas also grabbed nine rebounds, a category in which the Falcons hurt Hermiston. Hanford grabbed 39 total board to Hermiston’s 34, including 18 on the offensive end.
Hermiston will stay at home for Kamiakin (WA) on Friday, a game in which Strom expects to again be without his suspended athletes. The suspensions lengths could be known at that time, though.
Contact AJ Mazzolini at firstname.lastname@example.org or (541) 966-0839.