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Tigers edge Banks for Final Four ticket
by CASEY KELLAS / The Observer
CORVALLIS — The Lady Tigers are in the state semifinals.
But they sure made it interesting.
La Grande held off a ferocious second half rally by Banks in the quarterfinals of the 4A state tournament Wednesday night at Gill Coliseum, pulling out a 49-47 victory to advance to Thursday’s semifinal.
“That’s a lot of pressure off,” senior Denise Comfort said after finishing with a game-high 15 points and seven rebounds despite playing just 16 minutes with foul trouble.
The Lady Tigers looked in control for most of the game, jumping out to a 13-7 lead in the first quarter and taking a 27-17 lead into the locker room at halftime.
La Grande forced Banks into 14 turnovers in the first half and scored 18 points off of turnovers in the first 16 minutes.
“We had a good first half, good pressure defense,” LHS assistant coach Bob Bedard said.
“It was nice to have a good lead coming into the half. A comfortable lead,” Comfort said.
But with multiple starters in foul trouble for La Grande in the second half, Banks started to find its offense and started to chip into the lead.
After a Lexus Miller-Moylan jumper stretched La Grande’s lead to 36-24 with 2:42 remaining in the third quarter, the Braves ended the quarter on a 6-0 run to cut it to 36-30 heading to the fourth.
Banks extended its run to 10-0 in the fourth to get within two points at 36-34.
“(Banks) was a lot more patient in their offensive sets,” Bedard said of the Braves in the second half. “They kept working the ball until they got a good shot. So, that’s how they got back in it.”
The game remained close from there, with the Lady Tigers taking a 42-36 lead on a Breanna Partney 3-pointer with 5:29 to play in regulation. But the Braves charged back again, cutting it to 42-40 with 1:59 left.
Banks had a golden opportunity to tie the game at 46-all with 31 seconds to go on a steal, but the Braves blew a wide open lay in that led to a pair of Miller-Moylan free throws at the other end.
“(The bench) did a good job. We had starters sit for a long time (with foul trouble), so I was really pleased with the team effort,” Bedard said.
After Miller-Moylan’s free throws made it 48-44, Kayla Hardie nailed a 3-pointer with 17 seconds left to cut the lead to 48-47. The Braves fouled Partney on the ensuing possession, and the senior hit one of two free throws to make it 49-47 with 8.6 ticks left on the clock.
Lauren Birr had a good look at a 3-pointer at the buzzer for Banks, but the shot rimmed out and La Grande held on for the win.
“We could see some things that got us in trouble in some spots, but our kids played well. We’re thrilled with the win. It did get close, but we were very patient on offense.
We’re just really pleased with the outcome,” Bedard said.
Miller-Moylan finished with nine points and four rebounds, while both Partney and Lauren Mills chipped in eight points. The Lady Tigers shot 41 percent (16-39) from the field for the game and connected on 16 of 27 free throws.
Hardie led the Braves with 13 points, while Megan Bunn scored 12. Banks finished shooting 35 percent (16-45) from the field and hit 13 of 23 free throws.
La Grande will now face off with Sutherlin at 6:30 p.m. in the semifinals. Sutherlin held off Junction City 44-42 Wednesday on a pair of Miranda Mendenhall free throws with one second left in regulation.