WILSONVILLE ENDS TIGERS' TITLE HOPES
CORVALLIS There are a few statistics that the La Grande boys would probably like to forget after Friday's 52-42 state 3A semifinal loss to Wilsonville.
Among the many:
Thirty-six and-a-half, their shooting percentage from the field.
Twenty-four, the number of free throws Wilsonville made, compared to La Grande's nine.
And the most telling one of all, seven. As in the number of minutes the Tigers were forced to play without star center Ben Pettit.
With Pettit on the bench for almost a whole quarter with foul trouble and forced to play tentatively, Wilsonville was able to knock the Tigers out of the championship chase for the second year in a row.
"I picked up a few offensive fouls, which I've struggled with," said Pettit, who led the Tigers with 10 points. "Once I was able to come back in I wasn't able to go up for blocked shots like I wanted to because of my fouls. It was a little frustrating." Even with Pettit's frustration and Wilsonville's Jeremy Wilson hitting shots left and right, La Grande led most of the game and as late as one minute left in the third quarter before an 8-0 run gave the Wildcats a 34-31 lead. Wilson, the Wildcats' leading scorer at 22.2 points per game, went for 25 points, seven rebounds and three assists against La Grande. Steven Ohl, Wilsonville's 6-foot-1 post who spent most of the evening on Pettit, posted a 12-point, 11-rebound double-double that included a pair of clutch three-pointers.
"La Grande is a very good team, every bit as tough as we anticipated," Wilsonville coach Chris Roche said. "But our kids have a collective will and a resiliency that I wouldn't trade for anything."
With Pettit picking up his fourth foul late in the third quarter, Wilsonville was able to take the ball unabated to the hoop for the rest of the contest. Pettit's inability to play aggressive on defense combined with the Wildcats entering the free throw bonus with seven minutes remaining forced
La Grande to play catch-up for most of the quarter, cutting the margin to five at 45-40 with one-and-a-half minutes left on a Christian Siltanen three-pointer. Wilsonville hit seven of its last eight free throws to seal the win.
"It was just experience," La Grande coach Aaron Mills said. "Wilsonville was chucking our guys around and we couldn't post up. They're a great defensive team and they play as a unit. They make you take jump shots eight-footers when we would normally get two. They're really a seasoned team and I think they'll pick up the championship trophy tomorrow regardless of who they play."
Siltanen added nine points and five rebounds for the Tigers. La Grande point guard Rick Anderson had eight points, two assists and five turnovers on 3-of-13 shooting.
"It's hard because we'd come so far and were so close to the championship game," Anderson said. "The stuff that keeps running through your head after a loss like that it's tough but that's the way the ball rolls sometimes. A call here or there and it's us in the finals."
La Grande will now face Sutherlin High School, 55-43 losers to Baker High School in the other semifinal, at 3:15 p.m. today for third place. Baker plays Wilsonville for the title at 8:15 p.m.
A third-place finish would still be
La Grande's best all-time showing at the state tournament.
"We've got to realize now that there's nothing we can do about this loss and move on," Siltanen said. "The only thing we control now is the next game we play in."
Willis 0 6-12 6, Axelrod 3 2-2 8, Wilson 8 9-11 25, Eave 0 1-2 1, Ohl 2 6-8 12, Crace 0 0-0 0, Staub 0 0-0 0, Walter 0 0-0 0, Galbraith 0 0-0 0, Draney 0 0-0 0. Totals: 13 24-35 52.
LA GRANDE (42)
Anderson 3 2-2 8, Bomberger 2 2-2 6, Siltanen 4 0-0 9, Lowry 2 1-2 5, Pettit 5 0-1 10, Stebbins 0 1-2 1, Weaver 0 0-0 0, Evins 0 3-5 3, Townsend 0 0-0 0. Totals: 16 9-14 42.
Wilsonville 8 12 14 18 52
La Grande 11 8 12 11 42
Three pointers: Wilsonville, Ohl 2; La Grande, Siltanen. Fouls: Wilsonville 12; La Grande 27. Fouled out: Siltanen, Pettit.