HERMISTON — The Hermiston Bulldogs proved Tuesday night that any basketball team with a handful of 3-point marksmen is never out of a game.
Even if those specialists were way off their mark for a very long time.
A dreadful shooting performance through the first 20 minutes of the game set up an improbable comeback effort — cued by seven 3-pointers in the second half — as the Bulldog boys pulled off a caper against The Dalles Wahtonka for a 48-41 victory.
Hermiston (2-10, 1-1 CRC) picked up its first Columbia River Conference win in the home opener for league play. The Dalles Wahtonka (1-12, 0-2 CRC) remains winless in league play.
Tuesday’s game didn’t look like one the Bulldogs would eventual point to as their first conference triumph early on, as the team shot 2 for 22 before halftime to sink into a 19-5 hole. The first field goal didn’t land until Alonso Ortiz made a basket with 3:40 left — in the second quarter.
Adversity has been there all year for the Dawgs and the lesson Ortiz has taken from that is to never give up.
“We’ve been in this situation before,” said Ortiz, who had 15 of his team-high 17 points after halftime as the Dawgs clawed their way back. “We just knew it was going to be a lot of work.”
Luckily for Hermiston, the Eagle Indians left the door open. After starting 0-16 from behind the arc, vigilance kept them shooting. Seven of the next 10 went for points as the once- rusty offense started to look well-oiled.
“Guys were penetrating and kicking out to us and being really unselfish,” Ortiz said. “If I’m in rhythm I’m pretty sure I’m making it.”
Ortiz brought the team back within arm’s length, but Jake Flyg provided the final touches. Flyg hit a long 3 to give Hermiston its first lead of the game, 40-39, with just less than two minutes to play. The next trip down the court for the Bulldogs ended the same way, a Flyg 3-pointer on an assist from Alex Ortiz.
The Bulldogs shot with a divine touch in the second half, netting 58 percent of their shots while scoring exactly half of their team total in the fourth quarter. The dramatics helped break an eight-game losing streak that had been stretching for more than a month.
The Dalles Wahtonka felt content to let Hermiston play from the edge as it dominated the territory inside the lane. Hermiston players could have hidden in the shadows cast by the giants in Eagle Indian jerseys. The tallest of them — 6-foot-5 Grayson Byers — cut through most Bulldog attempts at a rebound, snagging nine and slipping in 26 points from near the rim.
“Most of the time we like to get more stuff going to the rim, but its tough against this zone (defense) to get dribble penetration,” Hermiston coach Adam Strom said. “Their coach did a great job putting those guys in the right position.”
Alex Ortiz did his best to play above his 6-foot-3 height and swatted five blocks and battled for 10 rebounds.
Hermiston can enjoy this win for a few days before Pendleton (10-4, 2-0 CRC) comes into the Dawg House on Friday night.