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La Grande’s Brandon Dall goes up for a shot in the fourth quarter of the Tigers’ 68-64 loss to Pendleton Wednesday. Dall finished with 16 points for LHS. CASEY KELLAS - The Observer
The La Grande boys basketball team dropped a close 68-64 decision to visiting Pendleton Thursday night in the season opener for both teams. The Tigers overcame a 12-point fourth quarter deficit to tie the game at 64-64 with 52 seconds remaining, but a pair of free throws by Pendleton’s Logan Anderson put the Bucks back on top.
Kaleb White had a chance to tie the game with a close look at the basket with 12 seconds left but the shot rimmed out.
Pendleton then sealed the game at the free throw line.
“Overall I couldn’t be more happy at the moment,” coach Mark Carollo said. “We competed and worked hard. There is no reason for them to hang their heads. That’s a tough team right there.”
Pendleton led for the majority of the game after trailing 9-4 early. A 15-0 run by the Bucks made it a 19-9 lead before the teams traded baskets to end the first with PHS on top 21-11.
La Grande made a charge in the second quarter and got within three points after back-to-back three-pointers by Jake Powell made it 30-27.
Pendleton scored a late bucket to take a 32-27 lead into halftime.
The second half had a similar theme with La Grande getting close only to see Pendleton go on a run to go up by double-digits.
The Bucks benefited from a string of LHS turnovers to go on a 6-0 run midway through the third to go up 40-30.
But again the Tigers charged, using back-to-back three-pointers to cut it to 40-36 with 3:50 left in the quarter.
LHS got within two points at 41-39, but the turnover bug continued to plague La Grande and Pendleton closed the third on a 6-0 run to lead 47-38.
“We haven’t had a chance to really work on zone stuff,” Carollo said of Pendleton’s defense. “They have some long defenders.”
The Bucks went up 53-41 with 6:19 left in the fourth quarter and looked to be in control, but with both teams in the penalty the Tigers were able to chip away with free throws.
A Tyson Wicklander lay-in with 2:40 left cut the score to 60-54 before a pair of free throws by Kurt Boyd — who was 4-4 at the charity stripe in the fourth — made it 60-56.
“We tried to get the ball in the middle more. I told the kids to step up with the ball and play with confidence,” Carollo said.
A three-pointer by Powell with 1:10 left cut it to 64-61 before Powell knocked down another long ball 20 seconds later to tie it.
But in the end Pendleton had just enough to hold off the hosts.
“We had some careless turnovers but we also hit some big shots, too,” Carollo said. “We’ll learn from our mistakes.”
Brandon Dall led La Grande with 16 points, while Powell finished with 14 points behind four three-pointers.
Wicklander and White scored nine, Troy Williams added seven, John Bodfish finished with five and Boyd had four.
Joel Boozer had a game-high 21 points for Pendleton, while both Donte Robinson and Quincy George had 14 points. Logan Anderson added 13.
La Grande will compete in the Inland Cellular Bengal Shootout this weekend in Lewiston. The Tigers face Lewiston Friday and Moscow Saturday.