There were five white Pendleton jerseys playing defense on Monday night as usual, but through Hood River Valley’s eyes they saw an army of defenders. An energized defensive front disrupted the Eagles offense for 33 turnovers to help fuel a 53-36 victory for the Bucks, their first triumph in the Columbia River Conference this season.
The Bucks (6-10, 1-4 CRC) built a 38-18 lead at the game’s halfway point behind a 26-point second quarter. The team went to the locker room with a 20-5 turnover advantage, not the kind of numbers the Bucks have been used to in recent weeks.
“It makes a big difference. (Last game), we’d turn the ball over and Hermiston would make a basket right away,” said junior Brittany Gregerson of the team’s loss on Friday to Hermiston. Pendleton committed 32 turnovers in the game.
Coach Aaron Schmidt said he wanted the girls to turn out a smarter defensive effort than the games of late when the Bucks had lost four in a row. He wanted full pressure from baseline to baseline to take advantage of a Hood River Valley (8-7, 1-3 CRC) team that was playing its first game in 17 days because of weather cancellations.
“We knew that Hood River had not played in about two and a half weeks and we wanted to put pressure on them and make them handle the ball, make them take care of the ball, which can be hard,” Schmidt said. “Shoot, it was hard for us to be off for two weeks so we knew that coming in.”
The layoff puts Hood River Valley in a unique situation with three weeks left in the regular season. To make up for games postponed, the Eagles will play games on Monday, Wednesday and Friday for the next two weeks, an intense stretch for even the most disciplined teams, Hood River Valley coach Tom Ames said. His team will need to get back into game mode quick, he added. Five of those six — including Monday’s loss — are road games.
“It felt like December 1, the first game of the year,” Ames said of Monday’s game. “It helps just getting this out of the way and just playing again.”
The Bucks needed some offense to go with their D and senior Courtney Schumacher-Sweek stepped up to fill the net. She scored a game-high 16 points, including a swish from 3-point land early in the third quarter. She received a pass on the right wing with plenty of space, but hesitated pulling the trigger for the shot, instead dumping the ball back off to a guard. When it came back to her — still unguarded on the outside — Schumacher-Sweek drilled the shot for three.
Long-range shooting is a rarity in the post player’s game, she said, but passing up the open look twice was too hard to do.
“Shooting threes in practice is really fun and I’ve had the green light in games, but it’s my job to play underneath where they need me,” Schumacher-Sweek said. “But I’ll take it.”
Schumacher-Sweek didn’t slack on her post responsibilities either, blocking six shots.