March 07, 2002 11:00 pm
DRIVING: La Grande's Karli Nebeker drives around a Molalla player during Thursday's game. (The Observer/PAT PERKINS).
DRIVING: La Grande's Karli Nebeker drives around a Molalla player during Thursday's game. (The Observer/PAT PERKINS).

By Pat Perkins

Observer Staff Writer

CORVALLIS If Wednesdays win over Philomath was about heart, then La Grandes win Thursday over Molalla was about heartburn.

The Tigers advanced to the semifinals at the OSAA-U.S. Bank Class 3A Girls Basketball State Championships for the second year in a row with a nail-biting, overtime thriller, a 45-44 victory over the Indians that was in doubt until Molallas Andrea Hansen missed two free throws in the final second of overtime.

La Grande (21-5) plays Marist at 9:30 tonight at Oregon State Universitys Gill Coliseum.

Our girls just refuse to lose, La Grande coach Isaac Williams said. Like I said to the girls afterward, that was all H-E-A-R-T.

Heart was La Grandes secret ingredient in a first-round victory over Philomath. The Tigers trailed early in that game but responded with a 41-9 run over the games final 21 1/2 minutes.

The Tigers never generated that kind of run against Molalla (23-3), which frustrated La Grandes offense all the way to the end.

Early on, we had to attack the basket and we were successful, Williams said. After that, we were a little passive.

Molalla led 22-15 at halftime, and it wasnt until La Grande went back to the basket that it started to cut into the deficit.

We started off really flat, just like last night, Lindsey Carmichael said. Our defense really picked it up.

In overtime, Carmichaels drive to the hoop with eight seconds left put La Grande on top for good. Carmichael scored to tie the game at 44, was fouled and made the free throw for the one-point lead.

The layup just seemed more open, so I just took it to the left, which is my strong hand, she said. On the free throw line, Shalece (Hibbert) had told me, Just like in practice.

But it wasnt over. Molallas Brittany Webber took the ball up the court and made a nice pass to Hansen just like she did at the end of regulation. Both times, Hansen was fouled with less than a second on the clock.

The difference was that Hansen made her two free throws in regulation and missed both in overtime.

Webber had missed two free throws with 28 seconds to play, keeping Molalla from extending its 44-42 lead.

The Indians biggest lead, 33-25, came with 2:44 left in the third quarter after Carrie Taflelig scored. La Grandes Karli Nebeker had a three-point play, Amanda Schuft made a free throw and Amber Rasmussen scored to put the Tigers down by two going into the final period.

Amazingly, neither team made a field goal in the final frame. La Grandes Christie Weaver was 6-for-6 from the line in the period, and her two free throws with 1:35 left gave La Grande its first lead since the first quarter, 37-35.

I dont think anybody wanted to shoot, Williams said. Everybody wanted to get to the basket.

La Grande shot just 28 percent from the field, while Molalla made 33 percent of its field goals.

Molallas Amy Yoder made a pair of foul shots with 41 seconds left to tie the game. In the final seconds, Carmichael stole the ball and got it to Weaver, who was fouled on her way to the basket. Her two free throws with 8.2 seconds left seemingly gave the game to La Grande until Hansen made her pair with less than a second to go.

Hansen scored 18 points for Molalla. Yoder had 14 points, and Stacy Imholt grabbed 10 rebounds.

Weaver led La Grande with 16 points and 11 rebounds. She was 9-for-9 from the line.

The biggest thing for me was my teammates having confidence in me, she said. They took the weight off my shoulders.

La Grande wont be able to start slow tonight against Marist. The Spartans pounded Astoria 59-31 and had most of that lead by halftime. The Tigers upset Marist last year in the quarterfinals, a win that put La Grande on the map for Class 3A girls basketball powerhouses.

I hope that we come out to play right away in the first half, Weaver said. The second half, too.

La Grande girls 11 4 16 8 6 45

Molalla 14 8 11 6 5 44

La Grande Weaver 3-10 9-9 16, Carmichael 2-8 1-1 5, Schuft 2-6 5-8 9, Nebeker 2-8 4-5 8, Hibbert 2-4 1-4 5, Rasmussen 1-3 0-2 2, Jensen 0-1 0-0 0, Crouch 0-3 0-0 0. Totals: 12-43 20-29 45.

Molalla Hansen 5-12 8-11 18, Imholt 1-5 0-6 2, Amy Yoder 3-8 6-8 14, Webber 0-4 0-2 0, Car.Taflelig 1-2 0-1 2, Fischer 1-2 1-2 4, Amb.Yoder 1-2 0-0 2, Cat.Taflelig 0-1 2-2 2. Totals: 12-36 17-32 44.

Three-pointers La Grande 1-12 (Weaver 1-4, Carmichael 0-4, Schuft 0-1, Nebeker 0-1, Hibbert 0-2), Molalla 3-8 (Imholt 0-1, Amy Yoder 2-5, Fischer 1-2). Fouled out Nebeker, Crouch, Imholt. Total fouls La Grande 27, Molalla 23. Technical fouls None. Turnovers La Grande 22, Molalla 19. Rebounds La Grande 36 (Weaver 11), Molalla 30 (Imholt 10). Assists La Grande 5 (Hibbert 3), Molalla 7 (three with 2).