December 17, 2001 11:00 pm

By Mike Weber

For The Observer

THE DALLES It might have been tough for La Grande High School girls basketball coach Isaac Williams to get his squad motivated for a Monday night game at The Dalles.

Following a loss to Hermiston on Saturday, the Tigers embarked on a three-hour trip west to face the Indians in a non-league contest in which the outcome would have very little significance upon their overall record.

For the Lady Tigers, ranked No. 2 in the Oregon Class 3A Coaches Poll, they certainly wanted to avoid starting out 1-3 on the season. It was also their first matchup against a 3A school and provided them with an opportunity to see how they compared to a similar opponent.

Perhaps falling behind 2-0 was the only motivating factor needed to give the Tigers some momentum. La Grande quickly regained the advantage on consecutive three-pointers by Karli Nebeker and Christie Weaver to take a 6-2 lead. They never trailed again on their way to a 55-38 victory over the Indians (2-5).

Weaver, a 5-foot-11 junior forward, led the Tigers in scoring with 19 points, including 11 in the third quarter when they took their biggest lead of the game by 25 points. La Grande (2-2) won easily despite a rare scoreless second quarter and with Weaver on the bench resting the entire fourth quarter as the Tigers led 46-21 at the end of the third.

This was a good test for us, because it shows just how good our team is in comparison to another 3A school, said Weaver. After losing on Saturday, I was just hoping that we would play well enough and have a chance to win, but I was surprised that we won so easily.

I was glad that I was shooting well and it was nice to be the leading scorer, but I really always try to just help our team any way that I can, Weaver said. I think we got a little over-confident in the second quarter, while thinking about getting an easy win. We just didnt realize that The Dalles would come out more focused and ready to play better. We couldve been in trouble though, but we were lucky that they only scored four points.

La Grande exploited The Dalles defense in the third, while passing the ball around well and patiently waiting for good shooting opportunities. The Tigers displayed a potent and versatile offense scoring inside on post moves, driving layups, free throws and from long range (four treys). Every starter scored at least two points in the third quarter, including Amanda Schuft (2), Shalece Hibbert (6) and Lindsey Carmichael (2) as the Tigers exploded for 26 points.

A The Dalles comeback, led by 5-foot-10 guard Samantha Krier (22 points) reduced the deficit, largely in part because La Grande played the entire fourth with reserves Jill Jensen, Lauren Sternfield, Kayla Crouch, Amber Rasmussen, Alexis Baum and Chelsea Long. Jensen, a 5-foot-10 freshman, led the Tigers in rebounds with five and scored three points. Crouch, a sophomore post, scored all eight of her points in the fourth quarter.

Anytime you get a road win, its a big deal, so Im very pleased about getting the victory, said Williams, who led the Tigers to the Intermountain Conference 2001 title and a third-place state tournament finish in his first season at La Grande. We had a great all- around team effort today with everyone contributing well offensively. We had excellent defensive intensity early, which led to many easy baskets and we passed the ball around well throughout the game.

Were just hoping to play well all year and then hopefully finish atop the standings at the end of the season, but were not concerned about the rankings right now.

La Grande 20 0 26 9 55

The Dalles 6 4 11 17 38

LA GRANDE 55 - Christie Weaver 5 (2) 7-8 19, Shalece Hibbert 4 (2) 10, Lindsey Carmichael 2 (1) 2-2 7, Karli Nebeker 2 (2) 6, Amanda Schuft 1 2, Jill Jensen 1 1-4 3, Kayla Crouch 2 4-7 8, Lauren Sternfeld, Amber Rasmussen, Chelsea Long, Alexis Baum. Totals: 17 (7) 14-21 55.

THE DALLES 38 - Samantha Krier 10 2-4 22, Maria North 3 1-4 7, Anna Haley 2 4, Rachel Colbourne-Eagy 1 2, Micah Clark 0 1-5 1, Heather Fitz-Gustafson 0 2-2 2, Jena Loop, Pearl Hoffman, Jaimi Faris. Totals: 16 6-15 38.