HERMISTON, ORE. - Coach Larry Usher's Hermiston Bulldogs were a force to be reckoned with last season. Based on how they dismantled the Sunnyside High School boys basketball team last night, the Bulldogs appear to be poised for a return trip to State.
Hermiston jumped out to a 20-2 lead on the Grizzlies and except for one brief charge by Sunnyside midway through the second quarter, the Bulldogs were in control throughout. The end result was a 63-48 win by Usher's crew.
"They had an answer for everything we threw at them," said Sunnyside Coach Steve Urrutia.
To those in the know, it's probably not all that surprising that Usher's team came out on top Tuesday evening. The Hermiston coach is a Sunnyside High grad who played for the Grizzlies, himself. Usher is also the architect, who before accepting the Hermiston job two years ago, was at the helm of the Wapato boys hoop program when the Wolves made a couple of splashy appearances at the 2A State tournament. Last season Usher's Bulldogs, which included a couple of players who were recruited by Division I schools, stymied the competition enroute to qualifying for the State tournament in Oregon.
Urrutia, who admiringly concedes that Usher appears to have another winner on his hands, said he wouldn't mind crafting his own team in the image of this year's Bulldog squad.
"They did to us what we want to do to our opponents this year," said Urrutia. "We'll look at the film closer and see exactly how they managed it."
One thing Urrutia won't have to search for, though, is how to instill within his Grizzlies a comeback attitude once they fall behind. After Hermiston opened a 20-2 lead on Sunnyside, the Grizzlies fought back and posted a 15-5 run of their own to close out the first period scoring. The catalyst for Sunnyside in that come-from-behind charge was 5'10" senior Eric Crimp.
"He did another nice job for us, coming in off the bench," said Urrutia, detailing that Crimp popped in 7 of his 9 points in that opening quarter.
Sunnyside cut into Hermiston's lead even more in the second period, behind the offensive efforts of seniors Reid Schilperoort and Noe Zammaron, who finished with 14 and 10 points, respectively. At one point before the half, the Grizzlies were only trailing the home team by five points.
Hermiston finished the first half with a flurry, though, taking a 41-29 lead into the locker room at intermission. After the break, the Bulldogs kept the Grizzlies at bay, outscoring Sunnyside by a 22-19 margin in the final two quarters.
Urrutia said the Bulldogs are surprisingly quick, considering they're comprised of 6'0" to 6'3" players. "They play at a pretty furious pace," he said. Urrutia added Hermiston kept his team from make a late game run by pressuring his club defensively right down to the final horn.
The Bulldogs aided their own cause, as well, by shooting at a near 70 percent clip from the field. Hermiston's top gun, 6'3" post Mike Carollo, poured in 24 points against the Grizzlies. Carollo added an 8-for-11 performance from the free throw line.
"We didn't do the kind of job inside we needed to do against him," said Urrutia.
Sunnyside's ultimate downfall may have been from outside the 3-point arc. The Grizzlies only connected on 4-of-24 trey attempts.
"No doubt about it. We need to practice our shooting," Urrutia lamented.
The Grizzlies (0-0, 1-1) will entertain Grandview (0-0, 2-0) this coming Friday night in Sunnyside, and will then open Mid-Valley League play at home on Saturday against West Valley.
Sunnyside 17 12 11 8 -48
Hermiston 25 16 8 14 -63
Sunnyside-Cantu 0, Zammaron 10, Marquez 0, Simmons 0, Heckert 4, Crimp 9, R. Schilperoort 14, Thomas 6, Pacheco 0, Duran 5.