La Grande’s Denise Comfort battles a pack of Lady Bulldogs as she tries to score against undefeated Sutherlin inThursday’s semifinals. CASEY KELLAS/The Observer
by CASEY KELLAS / The Observer
Lady Tigers drive over unbeaten Bulldogs to earn title showdown with Mazama for Oregon basketball crown
CORVALLIS — La Grande is one win away from capturing the school’s first state team title in any girls sport.
With a 66-56 victory over previously undefeated Sutherlin (26-0) Thursday night, the Lady Tigers will face off with Mazama tonight at 6:30 p.m. for the 4A state championship.
“I’m speechless,” senior Lauren Mills said. “It’s a dream come true for all of us seniors.”
Thursday’s victory resembled the one La Grande had over Banks on Wednesday, starting out strong in the first half only to see the opposition rally in the third quarter.
But unlike Wednesday, the Lady Tigers controlled the majority of the fourth quarter, and used clutch free throws down the stretch to pull out the win.
“We are thrilled with the game, overall,” LHS assistant coach Bob Bedard said. “It was a great first quarter. We had a little bit of a shaky second quarter, but we talked about finishing the game with composure. We had a great second half, and we’re just pleased with the performance of each and every one of those kids.”
Mills got LHS off on the right foot with a 3-pointer out of the gates. The Lady Tigers jumped out to a 5-0 lead and held an 18-9 lead after the first quarter.
“We weren’t intimidated by the fact that they were undefeated,” Mills said. “We wanted to show them how it feels to lose.”
A pair of Breanna Partney free throws stretched the lead to 27-13 midway through the second quarter, and it looked like the Lady Tigers were in full control.
“We came out strong and knew that we needed to jump on them from the beginning,” Partney said.
But right when Sutherlin looked dead in the water, the Bulldogs came to life.
Sutherlin used a 12-0 run to get back into the game and trailed 29-27 at halftime.
The Bulldogs carried that momentum over into the third quarter, where they took their first lead on a Ricki Mock bucket with 6:51 to go in the period.
“We just didn’t want them to pull away,” Mills said of the attitude when Sutherlin took the lead. “We wanted to stay with them. We knew that we could get right back in it.”
And that’s exactly what the Lady Tigers did.
With the game knotted up at 35-all, La Grande scored seven of the final 10 points to close the third quarter with a 42-38 lead.
From there, LHS maintained a lead of at least five points, with Sutherlin never making a serious push.
The Lady Tigers were able to convert their free throws down the stretch to fend the Bulldogs off.
For the game LHS shot 30 for 40 at the charity stripe, with Partney connecting on all 14 of her attempts.
“I was on tonight,” Partney said.
“Those free throws were tremendous,” he said. “The first thing we talked to the kids about was having good concentration. Free throws show that, that they were focused on what was going on.”
Partney finished the game with 18 points and 13 rebounds while being named the ODS player of the game for La Grande.
Mills had 19 points and seven boards, while Denise Comfort added 16 points and seven rebounds. Lexus Miller-Moyland chipped in five points, and both Anna Grigsby and Madison Elliott scored four.
Kayce Mock led Sutherlin with 14 points, while Ricki Mock had 13 points and Miranda Mendenhall scored 12.
Now the Lady Tigers get a date with Mazama tonight, a team that has won its two games in Corvallis by a combined 54 points.
The Vikings defeated Cascade 54-39 in Thursday’s other semifinal.
La Grande knows it will take another solid effort to bring home the championship trophy.
“We’re going to have to do what we’ve done the past two games,” Mills said. “We’ve been underestimated by everyone. We’re going to have to come out strong.”