Wednesday, February 29, 2012/lk
For one half Tuesday against Hermiston the Hood River Valley basketball team looked like a team which could beat anybody in the state. For the other half they were a team that could not beat anybody.
The Eagles saw an eight-point halftime lead vanish minutes into the second half as Hermiston woke up. The Bulldogs soon overtook the Eagles, and kept right on going.
The Bulldogs outscored the Eagles 55-12 in the second and won 75-44 in the final game of the regular season Tuesday night in Hood River.
Mallorie Moss led the Bulldogs with 26 points, 22 of them coming in the second half, while Jeni Hoffert added 24 for Hermiston.
Logan Bailey led the Eagles with 14 points, with Megan Winans adding 12.
"Our energy just dropped," said Winans of the second half. "Then we turned the ball over a lot."
Not to drag out a tired cliché, but the game was as much "a tale of two halves" as one could possibly find.
In the first half the Eagles played one of their highest-energy efforts of the season, closing out on Hermiston shooters and controlling the pace on offense.
The Eagles also managed to keep the athletic Bulldogs from doing anything that they wanted to do on offense and got the crowd into the game throughout the first half.
Then when the two teams came out for the second half, everything changed.
Hermiston began hitting its three-pointers - its bread and butter in a blowout win over HRV last week - and the Eagles began turning the ball over left and right.
Hermiston more than doubled its first-half production in the third quarter alone, outscoring HRV 28-10 in the quarter after managing 20 points in the first half.
After their offense got going full-bore in the third, the Bulldogs used their defense to seal the deal after building a seven-point lead heading into the fourth on a Hoffert three-pointer.
In the fourth, Hermiston held HRV without a point until just 1:50 remained in the game, and by that point it was too late for any HRV comebacks.
While the Eagle seniors were feted two days prior during their game with The Dalles-Wahtonka, the HRV girls seniors had to play one last game at home thanks to snow and ice in January, which pushed the Hermiston game to the last day on the schedule.
"It's been a great experience," said Winans, a senior, of playing on the team. "We all knew we would have to work hard to get a varsity spot when we came up. It was nice to know we had to work hard to get where we are."
The loss locked the Eagles into a game at Parkrose Friday night. The Broncos finished fourth in the Northwest Oregon Conference this season with a record of 14-9 overall and 8-6 in league play. They closed their regular season with a 61-49 win at Liberty Tuesday night.
Coach Tom Ames said HRV would need to do what it couldn't in the second half against Hermiston - find the person who's open after a double-team trap - in order to beat the Broncos.
"There are going to be kids open," he said. "We just have to find them."
No matter how the season ends, Ames said it had been a pleasure working with the team and the graduating seniors.
"They've been great kids," he said of the seniors. "I don't have to worry about anything with them."
In Hermiston the HRV boys wrapped up their season with 61-55 loss to the Bulldogs. The Eagles led by one at the end of three quarters but could not hold on as the Bulldogs rallied to get the lead.
Ryan Wheat led the Eagles with a double-double, 20 points and 12 rebounds. Story McKee had 13 points and Cody Walker had 10 for HRV.
"They played with a lot of effort," said HRV coach Steve Noteboom of the final game. "And I am proud of the energy level they had to finish the year."
The season ended following the game for both the Bulldogs and the Eagles as they were the two lowest-ranked north region teams in 5A, and thus were eliminated from post-season play.