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La Grande’s Kurt Boyd crosses over a Nyssa defender during the first half of the Tigers home opener. (CHRIS BAXTER/The Observer)
La Grande played a game of hot and cold, and fortunately the latter was in the middle two quarters. The Tigers jumped out early, and had to fight back for a 50-38 win against Nyssa in their home opener Tuesday, and the fifth straight win against the Bulldogs.
“It’s nice to get the jitters out,” senior Tyson Wicklander said. “You’re all hyped up, and I think that’s the reason we came out a little flat. We were running wild and making some bad passes.”
Thankfully for the Tigers Troy Williams, had his shooting stroke going early. La Grande jumped out to a 7-0 lead, but the hot shooting evaporated as quickly as it came. The senior opened the game with eight points in the first quarter, with five coming in the initial run.
The Bulldogs took advantage of the Tigers’ misses in the second quarter to take a 23-22 lead into the half. La Grande (2-2) went 2-of-13 from the field in the second quarter, finishing the opening half shooting 33 percent from the floor.
“At the half we just talked about getting our defense ironed out,” La Grande head coach Mark Carollo said. “Really guarding the hop. Offensively, we wanted to work a little more inside out. I think we got a little discouraged when the shots stopped falling.”
But it was defense that paved the way to the win for the Tigers. La Grande forced turnovers, and didn’t allow the open looks Nyssa got in the first quarter. The Bulldogs went 2-of-11 in the third quarter. Junior Brandon Dall found his stroke in the third quarter, scoring eight points. Williams scored his final points, finishing with 11, to close out the third quarter. He drilled a 3-pointer with 48 seconds left to give La Grande a 39-29 lead.
“We were two different teams in each half,” Carollo said. “The boys didn’t have the energy in the first half, and settled for a lot of shots. In the second half, we tried to be more deliberate. We came off the picks a little harder. The boys read the defense better and we got some easier looks. More importantly we were able to finish in the second half.”
Then it was time for Wicklander to get involved to close out the game. The 5-foot-8 guard scored three baskets during an 8-2 run that put the Tigers up 48-33 with 2:18 left in the game.
“It’s nice having four returning starters,” Wicklander said. “Troy, Brandon, Jake and myself all have experience and are leaders on the court. At any point in the game, it can get taken over by any one of us.
“Plus, we have Brandon (Cederholm) and Kurt (Boyd) coming off the bench. They give us a lot of energy.”
La Grande will have some time off before hosting Vale Dec. 20, something Carollo is happy about.
“It’s going to give us some time to really be able to work on things,” Carollo said. “There’s plenty that needs to be done, and it’s good to head into that practice with a win to build on.”