HERMISTON — By blowing up St. Helens 73-29 in Hermiston last Friday, the Bulldogs bought themselves another precious game for their season. Almost as importantly, the girls' basketball team won the opportunity to play in from of
the raucous home crowd at the Dawg House one last time. The seven senior Bulldogs will hear their names called before the game as the lights go down and the crowd gets up one last time.
And if recent history is any indication, Hermiston will snag one last win at home this season where they're 9-1.
The Columbia River Conference champion Bulldogs (20-5) host Liberty (12-13) in the first round of the Class 5A state playoffs at 7 p.m. The winner of the game fills one of the coveted eight slots in the final bracket and heads to Eugene the following week to battle for the right to fly the 2012 state championship banner above its home court.
The Bulldogs are out to improve on last season's deep run in the tournament when a one-point loss in the quarterfinals bumped the team from the championship path. Hermiston finished in fourth place.
Hoffert said he's pleased in the matchup with Hillsboro-based Liberty, a team that flounders on offense if pushed. The Falcons show some similarities to CRC foe The Dalles Wahtonka, Hoffert said, in that they have some aggressiveness on offense and will score if given the space. They have the ability, but falter when a defense comes down hard.
The Bulldogs defense expects to do just that behind a full-court pressure that tends to break opponents' spirits and lead to many points in transition while giving up only 40 points per game. That defense is keyed by the guard duo of Maloree Moss and Jeni Hoffert, whose pressure at the point often leads to turnovers from steals or errant passes.
With that defense is place, Hermiston's offense is set up for a leisurely day. The Bulldogs have one of the top four scoring teams on the season in Class 5A with 58 points per game. The Falcons didn't even finish in the top four in the Northwest Oregon Conference standings and are the lowest-scoring team still left in competition at just 41 points per game. They've been outscored by more than 100 points on the season.