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Imblerís Garrett Bigej tries to strip the ball from a Columbia Christian player in Saturdayís fourth/sixth-place game of the 1A state tournament in Baker City. NANCY CAMPBELL photo
BAKER CITY -— Imbler’s Panthers pounced on Columbia Christian in the first quarter and never let the Knights get in control on the way to 60-42 victory and a fourth-place finish in the state 1A tournament Saturday.
The victory gave the Panthers a final season record of 20-4, while Columbia Christian fell to 21-9.
“They battled back (after the opening loss) and played excellent. They managed to put two excellent games together and were very successful,” Mills said. “Our aggressive defense made the difference. Offensively, they moved the ball around well,” Mills said.
“It was a team effort for our kids,” he added.
The Knights were hammered in the first and third quarters, falling behind by a 35-16 margin in those two quarters alone.
In the second quarter, Columbia Christian tried to keep up with the Panthers, but fell short, 16-14. That put the Knights in a 35-21 at halftime, after scoing just seven points in the entire first period.
Imbler held a 51-30 lead going into the final quarter.
The Panthers held a 24-point lead with a little more than three minutes remaining in the game as they held off the Knights. Columbia Christian was able to cut the lead in the final minutes and outscore Imbler in the quarter.
For Imbler coach Mike Mills, the season ended when he wanted it to — on the final day of the season.
The inside game of Casey Robertson and Riley Kretschmer gave the Panthers a jump start, with Robertson hitting 10 points in the first five minutes of the game. Then Kretschmer hit six points to help give Imbler a 19-7 lead. The Old Oregon League co-champions had outscored the Knights by a 14-4 margin inside the paint.
Columbia Christian couldn’t catch the Panthers going into halftime, but it got worse in the third quarter.
Imbler’s Kyle Johnson hit a 3-pointer to start the third period and drop the Knights 17 points behind. Columbia Christian chipped away at the lead until it was 10 points with less than five minutes left.
Then the Panthers broke out in a 11-0 scoring blitz that left Columbia Christian with a 21-point hole to dig out of in the final eight minutes. Imbler had dominated inside again, outscoring the Knights by a 10-4 margin inside the key.
Robertson and Kretschmer hammered the Knights for a combined 24 points in the first half.
Robertson finished the game with 22 points, while fellow senior Kretschmer hit a total of 14 points in his final game. Johnson had 10 points, while Joe Griffin and Kain Shodin both added six points each. Garrett Bigej had two points.
Connor Getting led the Knights with a game-high 23 points, while Robert Bristol added 12 and Israel Hammond put in five points. Eric Allen scored two.