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Joe Sova

Sports Editor

La Grande was working on a drill the Tigers use often midway through Thursday's practice, as they prepare for the Greater Oregon League Tournament championship game Saturday in La Grande.

In the drill, a player would take the ball in the lane and try to score against two defenders.

"We try and simulate every game situation," Mills said. "Shooting by yourself without defense is not realistic and shooting with a partner is not realistic. But shooting in a crowd is."

Mills said being strong in the lane and finishing at the rim is imperative.

"I thought we missed a lot of shots on Monday (vs. Ontario), but it probably would have been worse if we hadn't gotten reps (repetitions)," the coach said. "It's getting better."

La Grande, ranked ninth in this week's 3A coaches poll, hosts rival Baker in the battle for the No. 1 seed from the GOL going into next week's state tournament. The Bulldogs upset Ontario 54-49 in overtime Thursday, in Ontario. Game time Saturday is 6 p.m.

Mills looked back on the Tigers' win over Ontario to earn the top seed in the GOL tourney.

"I thought our guards did a great job beating their pressure and getting the ball where it needed to be. And most of our shots were right at the rim," Mills said.

La Grande swept Baker during the GOL season – winning 67-53 Jan. 28 at home, and 58-44 Feb. 11 in Baker City.

Saturday's game is huge. The winner has a first-round bye in the OSAA/U.S. Bank/Les Schwab Tires Basketball State Championships, and waits until next Friday to play. That would be at home against Seaside (Cowapa League second seed), or Madras or Sherwood (Tri-Valley League third seed).

The La Grande-Baker loser must travel to seventh-ranked Stayton for a Tuesday first-round game.

Not only would a win over Baker give the Tigers a bye, it would allow the LHS coaches to scout the two teams the Tigers could play in round 2.

"I feel that we have an advantage, playing at home in front of our own crowd," Mills said of the third meeting with Baker. "The kids are more confident now knowing what they can do."

In Thursday's girls GOL Tournament game, Burns cruised past Baker, 61-40. Burns plays Saturday at Ontario for the top seed going into the state tourney.

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