PETTIT LEADS TIGERS TO ROUT OF SIUSLAW
"I was excited to play in this atmosphere, in the big gym ... for me, there were no nerves."
La Grande senior post
CORVALLIS Before Wednesday's 3A state quarterfinal at Gill Coliseum, Ben Pettit, La Grande's all-Greater Oregon League center and standout player, garnered about as much attention as a little-known, little-seen standout from eastern Oregon could expect.
That is, none.
What a difference 32 minutes makes. Thirty-one points, 14 rebounds, 9 blocks and a convincing 52-37 La Grande victory later, Pettit and his teammates had made history, becoming the first Tiger team to make it to the semifinals since 1927 and Pettit had taken a convincing star turn on the state's biggest stage.
Pettit's career night came against Siuslaw, a team generating plenty of buzz heading into the tournament thanks to the presence of heralded Louisiana State signee Ben Voogd.
"Nobody's had a chance to see our Ben, so nobody really knows what an athletic big man he is," Mills said. "The secret is out."
Pettit caused problems for the Vikings from the start of the game, particularly for Voogd, clogging the lane and causing Voogd to continually kick the ball back out to teammates.
"Everybody says that the Sky-Em League is tough, but we haven't played against anybody like Pettit this year," Siuslaw head coach Bob McBeth said. "It's that size and that athleticism you can't prepare for. We had a lot of respect for La Grande going in and I was very impressed. They're a good basketball team."
Pettit acknowledged that playing against LSU signee Voogd gave him a little extra motivation.
"We'd heard a lot about (Voogd) before the game, and he's definitely a great player," Pettit said. "But I was excited to play in this atmosphere, in the big gym. What was a little surprising was that, for me, there were no nerves."
La Grande will play Wilsonville (24-2), a 55-52 overtime winner over Hidden Valley, Friday at 3 p.m. A win over Wilsonville, champions of the Tri-Valley league, would give La Grande their first ever appearance in the boys state title game.
"It will be exciting, we'll go to the locker room and whoop it up, but this thing is not over and we need to be thinking about the next game," Mills said. "Wilsonville kicked the snot out of us last year in the second round so we've had to wait awhile for this game."
Siuslaw jumped out to a 10-8 lead after one quarter, but three straight second quarter baskets cut the Viking lead to one at 15-14.
Capitalizing on two Pettit blocks of Voogd drives,
La Grande took a 20-19 lead on a Rick Anderson layup. With time winding down in the first half, Anderson found a cutting Pettit for a two-handed slam and a 24-19 halftime lead.
Pettit blocked five shots in the first half.
"Ben carried us today," La Grande forward Chris Lowry said. "And I wasn't surprised at how he performed. Coach kept telling us to get him the ball and that's what we did.
"Right now we have the confidence that we can beat any team here." In the second half, Voogd struggled from the field, going 1-12 and scoring just three points. Voogd finished with 12 points, five assists and eight turnovers.
In the third quarter, La Grande continued to build on their lead, closing out the frame with an 8-2 run for a 37-28 lead heading into the final quarter.
Anderson, who struggled in the first half with seven turnovers, felt like once the Tigers overcame the jitters of playing at the state tournament, everything fell into place.
"I'm out there before the game telling people there's nothing to be nervous about, but I felt it a little bit," said Anderson, who finished with seven points and four assists. "Once we got over that we were able to deal with their full court press a little better and focus on Ben, who is a big mismatch for teams here. "Now we can go back out and hit it hard, hopefully make it into the finals."
LA GRANDE (52)
Anderson 3 1-2 7, Bomberger 0 0-0 0, Siltanen 2 0-0 4, Lowry 1 2-2 4, Pettit 12 7-8 31, Stebbins 2 0-0 4, Weaver 0 0-0 0, Evins 1 0-0 2, Townsend 0 0-0 0, Johnson 0 0-0 0, Warner 0 0-0 0. Totals 21 10-12 52.
Haberly 1 0-0 2, Voogd 3 5-6 12, Pitcher 4 1-2 9, Gates 3 2-2 8, May 1 0-3 2, Richter 0 0-0 0, Mitchell 0 0-0 0, Holden 1 0-0 0, Gutierrez 1 0-0 2, Dodson 0 0-0 0, Hunt 0 0-0 0, Gray 0 0-0 0. Totals 14 8-13 37.
La Grande 8 16 13 15 52
Siuslaw 10 9 9 9 37
Three pointers: Siuslaw, Voogd. Total Fouls: La Grande 12; Siuslaw 13. Fouled out: May.