LEAGUE TITLE, DEEP PLAYOFF RUN GOALS FOR LA GRANDE BOYS
By Raenelle Kwock
Observer Staff Writer
For the past two seasons, the La Grande Tiger boys basketball team has made the trip to state but has not won at the big tournament. This season, coach Aaron Mills would like to change that.
"(We want to) improve over last year's team," Mills said. "We want to win the league, as one of our goals. (We want to) go to state and perform better than the last couple of years."
Last season, the Tigers lost to Philomath, the top-ranked Class 3A team, in the first round at state, then fell to La Salle in overtime in the consolation quarterfinal. The season before, the Tigers lost to Madras and Henley.
Mills said most of the kids on this year's team have been to state and are experienced enough to understand what it takes to win.
The Tigers, who were 15-13 overall and 11-3 in the Greater Oregon League last year, lost starting guards Greg Schuft and Tyler Lester and forward Tanner Mellinger to graduation but return starting wing Seth Pennington and forward Kyle Bomberger. Pennington and Bomberger are seniors.
Mills said the Tigers probably will not have Pennington for another month as he recovers from a fractured foot. He said Pennington got his boot off last Friday.
Other returnees are senior forward Steve McMahan, senior forward Skyler MacDonald, junior guard Tyler Tucker, junior wing Kelly Moore and junior guard Aaron Nebeker.
New additions to the team are senior guard Casey Sheehy, senior forward Thomas Ely and sophomore Rick Anderson.
Mills said this is a veteran team, unlike last season when it went through growing pains after losing seniors, so it took awhile to get going. Toward the end of the season, the team played pretty good basketball, Mills said.
The defense is a month ahead of last year's schedule, and offensively the team has the weapons to score, he said.
Mills said the team has better passers, good chemistry, solid shooters and is fast.
"We're just trying to get people open and get it up the court as quick as we can," he said.
Mills said he will mix up the starting lineup early to see what works best.
The Tigers open preseason play at Pendleton Dec. 6. They begin league play Jan. 10 against Mac-Hi.