WALLA WALLA - Taking a break from Columbia Basin Big Nine play, the Wa-Hi boys earned their first win in three games with a 78-68 victory over visiting Hermiston Wednesday night.
Rob Ferenz led the Blue Devils with 24 points and 10 rebounds on the night - scoring almost all in the paint or from the free throw line - and Josh Eggers chipped in 18 more.
Wa-Hi shot 62.5 percent from the floor compared to Hermiston's 45.6 percent.
Ferenz, a 6-foot-4 senior forward, had a banner night.
"It felt pretty good," Ferenz said. "It's always nice to get double digits and then to get up above 20. I think that was my first game above 20 in my career as a varsity athlete so it felt good.
"Guys were giving me the ball," he said of his new personal record, "I was posting up and they were giving it to me in the right spot and I could just turn around and lay it in. (I) got a few rebounds, guys were giving me the ball and I was giving it back, so it felt good."
Ferenz's size helped him disrupt the Bulldogs under the net.
"Their size kind of gave us (trouble), you know big No. 42 (Ferenz) underneath, (he had) big offensive rebounds, big second opportunities, (it) kind of did us in for a while where we thought we could make a run," Hermiston coach Adam Strom said. "They just kept us at arms distance away and they played well tonight. I really credit Walla Walla with how tough they played."
The Blue Devils put an emphasis on getting to the free throw line in the win, Wa-Hi coach John Golden said, and it paid off. The Blue Devils hit 25-of-33 shots from the stripe - more than they'd hit all year.
"That (free throws) was one of the things we've been trying to work on," Golden said. "We haven't been getting many free throw attempts in the game and one of the things we've been trying to do is force the action a little bit more, whether it's inside in the post or whether it's the guards, just try to get in a and just try to draw some contact, and we were able to do that tonight."
Eggers led the Blue Devils from the free throw line, hitting 8-of-10 from the stripe. Ferenz hit 6-of-9 and senior guard Kyle Jameson hit 7-of-8.
Jameson was 3-6 from the floor for 13 points overall off the bench.
When the Devils did get to the line they were sharp, hitting just over 75 percent of their shots.
"Well it is (nice to convert on free throws)," Golden said. "We worked on it in practice and we haven't shot many in the game, so it was nice to be able to do that in the game."
All of those penalties added up for the Bulldogs, with starters Nolan Briscoe and Jordan Turner fouling out. Alex Ortiz, who led Hermiston with 29 points on the night, and Braden Williams had four fouls each.
Alonso Ortiz scored 20 for the Bulldogs in the loss.
Alex Ortiz (6-foot-3 junior) is the only returning varsity player for Hermiston (now 1-5) and is coming off an ankle injury.
Jameson had the tough responsibility of guarding Alex Ortiz most of the night, Golden said.
"I thought out guys defended," Golden said. "We gave up 68 points, but it was a pretty fast-paced game and we shot well. Ortiz is pretty tough, I thought Kyle Jameson came in and did a good job on him."
Wa-Hi built a 34-27 lead with 3:08 left in the first half thanks to said free throw shooting, but the Bulldogs went on an 11-4 run over the final three minutes of the first to break even at 38-all with 50 seconds remaining.
It looked as though Hermiston might take that tie into the locker room, but Eggers hit a jumpshot from the top of the key as time expired to give Wa-Hi a 40-38 lead.
Ferenz had nine of his points in the third and Wa-Hi's Same Arias nailed a 3-three pointer as the Devils built a 58-49 margin going into the fourth.
Hermiston went on a 10-4 run over the first 3:37 of the fourth to cut the lead to just 62-59, but baskets from Ferenz, Jameson and Eggers powered the Devils to a 14-5 run to close out the victory.
Wa-Hi, 3-5 overall and 0-2 in CBBN play, travels to Kamiakin on Dec. 30, at 7:30 p.m.
Wa-Hi 78, Hermiston 68
HERMISTON (68) - Briscoe 0-1 0-0 0, Contreras 1-3 1-2 3, Turner 2-2 2-3 6, Williams 1-1 0-1 2, Ortiz, Alonso 8-19 1-2 20, Flyg 2-9 1-2 6, Pederson 0-2 2-2 2, Ortiz, Alex 12-20 3-5 29. Totals 26-57 10-17 68.
WA-HI (78) - Eggers 5-8 8-10 18, Rowley 0-0 0-0 0, Porter 2-2 3-4 7, Locati 2-3 0-0 4, Peasley 3-7 0-0 9, Arias 1-4 1-2 3, Jameson 3-6 7-8 13, Ferenz 9-10 6-9 24. Totals 25-40 25-33 78.
Hermiston 18 20 11 19 - 68
Wa-Hi 18 22 18 20 - 78
3-point goals - Herm 6-22 (Ortiz, Alonso 3, Flyg, Ortiz, Alex 2), Wa-Hi 3-9 (Peasley 3). Total fouls - Herm 24, Wa-Hi 18. Fouled out - Herm 1 (Briscoe), Wa-Hi none. Technical fouls - none. Rebounds - Herm 18 (Briscoe 4), Wa-Hi 36 (Ferenz 10). Turnovers - Herm 9, Wa-Hi 13. Assists - Herm 6 (Ortiz, Alonso 3), Wa-Hi 10 (Locati 3, Peasley 3).