TIGERS GO TO 2 OT TO WIN 12TH STRAIGHT
By Pierre LaBossire
Observer Staff Writer
Fortunately for the La Grande boys, they get a whole day to rest.
The Tigers set themselves up for a titanic game Saturday against Ontario, with the Greater Oregon League championship on the line, by beating Vale in double overtime Thursday 57-54.
The boys helped keep the door open for Vale late in the game as they struggled from the free-throw line, but in the end, they slammed that door shut with four straight free throws in the final seconds of the second overtime.
"It was fun. We needed one like that," said Kelly Moore, who hit two of those crucial free throws.
The win, the Tigers' 12th straight, keeps La Grande perfect in the GOL at 10-0. The Tigers have a big game on the road Saturday against second-place 9-1 Ontario.
Coach Aaron Mills said Vale, tied with Baker for the third GOL playoff spot at 5-5, is a good team that had La Grande scouted well.
"They were very well prepared. There were no easy shots," he said.
Mills said after the game he told the boys that this was the kind of game good teams win games in which they don't necessarily shoot or play their best.
"I told them some teams just find a way. These guys have done that," he said.
La Grande looked to be in control early, building a lead as big as 28-19. Vale came surging back and actually took a fairly big lead at 40-35 midway through the fourth quarter.
The Tigers, who had Vale in the double bonus much of the game, battled back thanks to four points from Ben Pettit and a lot of free throw attempts.
La Grande took a lead of 45-42 into the final seconds. Vale's Josh Robertson drilled a 3-pointer in the final second to tie the contest and force overtime.
In the overtime, Vale again hit a 3-pointer with under a minute to tie the score at 50-50, forcing a second overtime.
One of the big reasons the game wasn't long over at this point was that La Grande struggled from the line. The Tigers shot just 7-for-14 from the line in the fourth quarter and first overtime.
Down 54-52 in the second overtime, Moore hit two straight from the charity stripe, then Kevin Bomberger made a critical steal and was fouled, and he hit two straight free throws to give La Grande a 56-54 lead with under a minute left. These were Bomberber's only points of the night, but they couldn't have come at a more important time.
Tyler Tucker hit one of two with under five seconds left, and at the buzzer, Vale got off a good-looking 3-pointer, but it hit the front rim and La Grande avoided a third overtime.
Ben Pettit finished the game with 19 points, while Moore scored 14.
La Grande 57, Vale 54 (2OT)
La Grande 13 10 9 13 5 7 57
Vale 10 7 13 15 5 4 54
Vale Lovell 3 0-0 6, Robertson 1 1-4 4, Mooney 2 1-2 6, Hiatt 5 1-3 13, Cooper 3 0-0 6, Seals 4 2-4 10, McFetridge 0 3-4 4, Pallas 3 0-1 6. Totals: 21 8-18 54.
La Grande Tyler Tucker 1 4-9 7, Rick Anderson 4 0-0 9, Kevin Bomberger, 0 2-2 2, Aaron Nebeker 2 2-4 6, Kelly Moore 5 3-5 14, Ben Pettit 8 3-5 19. Totals: 20 14-25 57.
Three-pointers Vale 4 (Hiatt 2, Mooney, Robertson); La Grande 3 (Tucker, Anderson, Moore). Fouled out Palls, Nebeker. Total fouls Vale 22, La Grande 21. Technical fouls Seals.