HERMISTON — Steve Hoffert still remembers meeting Maloree Moss for the first time. She was in elementary school, the same age as his daughter Jeni, and the two girls were attending a youth basketball camp the coach was running.
“I can still remember this little, blonde, pony-tailed girl just staring at you and wanting to be able to do everything you’re doing at camps,” said Hoffert, Moss’ future high school coach at Hermiston.
Almost a decade later, the ponytail is still there. It’s often the only thing defenders see as Moss dashes past them to the hoop, a blur of purple jersey followed by that blonde streak like the tail of a comet. As a senior this season, the point guard captained the Bulldogs to a third straight trip to the state tournament.
The Hermiston basketball program has had a patch of Moss on it since the player arrived at the school as a freshman in 2008. Even then, Hoffert said he could tell she had play-making potential. Moss, now 18, started the season on the varsity squad but shortly thereafter began starting games on the court instead of the bench.
“Her desire and her attentiveness stood out,” Hoffert said. “You get a kid like that and the sky’s the limit. You can give them every challenge imaginable and they’ll either conquer it or learn from it … She was at that maturity level.”
Even with a pair of third-place state trophies and more than 1,200 career points on her resume, those early games as a Bulldog are still what come to mind when Moss talks about her journey. That first game really sticks out.
“We played Walla Walla (Wash.) and even when I was in the game I felt like I was going to throw up,” she said, laughing.
The Dawgs would lose that game — and eight of their next nine — but that season laid the foundation. Moss and a group of six other now-seniors put together a three-year run that rivals any in Hermiston’s history. The team dominated their league, where a 27-game winning streak is still intact.
They are what Moss will miss most about being at Hermiston High, not the 72 wins over four season or the rush of racing up the court with a game on the line. She’ll miss the girls.
College ball — several Northwest schools are currently recruiting the guard — will bring forth a new team and a new dynamic among players. Moss got a taste of that while playing on a traveling Oregon Elite team this past summer with Jeni Hoffert. The girls competed with the best in the state against top teams in the nation.
“It was really fun because I got to meet new people but in the back of my mind I knew I was going back to my girls,” she said. “But I won’t be playing with them anymore. That’s the weirdest thing for me.”
Moss grew up in Hermiston playing with the same core group across sports seasons. She also played softball, volleyball and soccer from an early age, sometimes all in the same year.
Downtime is wasted time in her mind, said her father Brian Moss.
“She fell in love with sports early and we tried to provide that opportunity for her,” he said. “Through the years she got that competitive edge. She just loves to compete. She’s driven, that’s for sure.”
But the Bulldog seniors’ basketball days together are over after a pair of losses at this year’s state tournament in Eugene. The final loss to Wilsonville was one of the hardest to take, Moss said, because it had to be their last game together.
“We built it up so much that when we got there and it all fell apart it was just like…” Moss trailed off. “I was just so frustrated with everything and to look up at the clock and see that there were 30 seconds left and we were down by 10 and you think, ‘Wow, we’re really not going to get to Saturday (and the trophy games).’ ”
Following that letdown, the Moss family stayed in Eugene for a few extra days. It was a therapeutic unwinding period, Moss said, “which isn’t really like me.” The usual go, go, go approach needed some recharging.
Reinvigorated, Moss has a new goal. Softball season is here and one of Hermiston’s best all-around athletes is ready to stuff that blonde ponytail inside a batting helmet and try and end her high school career as a state champion.