The senior girls on Hermiston’s basketball team know each other very well. Long before Jeni Hoffert guarded Maloree Moss while running practice drills and scrimages in Hermiston High jerseys, the girls lined up across from each other on competing AAU teams.
The two fourth-grade squads from Hermiston were littered with future Bulldog standouts. Unfortunately for Hoffert’s side, most of those stars played on the other team.
“One team was stacked and the other was terrible,” she said laughing, listing off names of her adversaries turned teammates like they were the New York Yankees Murderers’ Row. “The best that we ever did was losing by 13, other times by 30.”
Along with Hoffert and Moss, the collection — which has dwindled to seven basketball playing girls as other interests have plucked some from the court — includes Andrea Waters, Gracie Flyg, Callahan Crossley, Cheyanne Lawson and Haley Foley. Their minds often feel connected in the game, Moss said, and in a little way they probably are after so many years learning each other’s movements. Each girl knows how to get the best out of the others, creating a basketball machine where points are the final product.
Their athletic bond extends beyond basketball, reaching onto the softball field and volleyball court as well. Four or more of them —depending on the year — have combined as teammates in each of those sports. Hoffert, who hadn’t played volleyball since middle school, even turned out for the team this season on a primarily social basis. She knew she wasn’t very good but said she’d rather be part of one of the teams than not.
The girls remain teammates as fall turns to winter turns to spring, Hoffert said.
“I think it’s rare. I think most schools have their basketball players and then they have their softball players and they have their different sports,” she said after a recent basketball victory. “I’ve never seen another school that’s had the same group of girls all the way across.”
“I think that’s nice,” added Lawson, who will play on all three squads this year again. “It’s really allowed us to grow together.”
Sports are as much about the competition and passion as they are about the socialization, basketball coach Steve Hoffert said about this group. They each have their favorites, but the set want to excel across the board for their friends.
“They’ve done a good job supporting each other and kind of knowing whose sport is whose,” he said. “Each girl understands what their role is in each sport and their ability to do that is really healthy.”
Their individual athletic strengths and drive allow them to succeed regardless of playing surface, but each definitely has her favorite.
Flyg is an all-conference softball infielder as well as an all-conference outside hitter in volleyball. She’ll decide on one of those two sports to pursue at the collegiate level next year. Lawson is also a volleyball-first type player and outside hitter. That’s her love, she said, even as both girls excelled on the diamond last season with .400-plus batting averages.
Crossley is a cowgirl at heart, roping and racing since she was a little girl with her family. She hopes to attend college for rodeo and maybe go a little further than that even.
“I’d really like to do rodeo the rest of my life,” she said. “I just grew up around horses.”
The only players on the Hermiston squad who would choose basketball over anything else — and may have the chance to do so — are Hoffert and Moss. Both have had recruiting interest from college scouts, coach Hoffert said, and both could play at the next level.
Moss has been the engine for the Bulldogs this season, almost always on the court with her hand in the play while leading the team with 13.6 points per game. And though she has enjoyed the time playing as a volleyball hitter and softball outfielder, basketball never really leaves her mind.
“I think it’s the contact and the intensity of the game,” Moss said. “You can get fired up. I mean you can do that in volleyball too but if you get mad, you can’t really get into somebody. You’ve got that net there.”
For the girls who make college rosters next year, they’ll face a reality of a team no longer composed of old acquaintances. The players will learn new systems and the intricacies of new teammates. The chemistry built through years of games and practices, shared moments of glory and agony, will be gone.
But that day is still far away for these seniors. It’s not even softball season yet.