LA GRANDE BOYS FALL TO LS SALLE BY 66-59

March 08, 2002 12:00 am

CORVALLIS The effort was there Thursday for the La Grande Tigers, but the reward was an early exit from the state tournament.

La Salle ended La Grandes season with a 66-59 overtime victory at Corvallis High School in a consolation quarterfinal game of the OSAA-U.S. Bank Class 3A Boys Basketball State Championships.

The guys grew up a lot in a day, La Grande coach Aaron Mills said after his team rallied from a five-point deficit with 52 seconds left in regulation.

La Grandes slow start in the first round game against Philomath contributed to the Tigers dropping into consolation. La Grande made sure it had a strong start this time, and its finish at least in regulation was just as strong.

They did a great job of coming back. That 3-pointer was a heckuva shot, La Salle coach Craig Cleghorn said.

That 3-pointer was a game-saving shot by La Grandes Seth Pennington with 30 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Pennington had just scored three points a few seconds earlier on a layup and foul shot.

The overtime started with a 3-pointer from La Salles A.J. Niebergall, and that was all the Falcons would need. La Salle made four free throws in the final 1:03 to ice the game.

Fortunately for us, we might have played a half-dozen one- to two-point games the whole year, Cleghorn said. The kids know the protocol.

Pennington led La Grande with 17 points, while Tyler Lester, who scored La Grandes only points in overtime, had 13 points and Tanner Mellinger had 12 points.

La Salle (16-9) never had more than a five-point lead, and La Grande (15-12) traded leads with the Falcons several times.

Mills expects the Tigers to return next season for the third year in a row.

They understand the kind of skill you need to win at this tournament, he said. Thats probably the biggest thing we gained from being here.

La Grande boys 13 10 17 17 2 59

La Salle 13 11 16 17 9 66

La Grande Schuft 1-3 1-2 3, Pennington 5-10 5-5 17, Lester 6-13-0-0 13, Mellinger 4-9 4-6 12, Bomberger 1-2 3-6 5, Nebeker 2-2 2-2 6, MacDonald, McMahan 1-6 0-0 2, Larson 0-0 1-3 1. Totals: 20-45 16-24 59.

La Salle Zwick 0-2 0-1 0, Eltagonde 2-4 1-2 7, Niebergall 4-11 3-7 14, Phillips 7-10 4-6 19, Huiard 3-7 1-2 7, Finger, Berry 2-5 4-6 8, Hennesey 0-1 0-0 0, Jones 4-6 1-2 9, Volke 1-1 0-0 2. Totals: 23-47 14-26 66.

Three-pointers La Grande 3-15 (Schuft 0-2, Pennington 2-4, Lester 1-4, Mellinger 0-3, McMahan 0-2), La Salle 6-13 (Eltagonde 2-4, Niebergall 3-5, Phillips 1-2, Berry 0-1, Hennessy 0-1). Fouled out None. Total fouls La Grande 20, La Salle 19. Technical fouls None. Turnovers La Grande 16, La Salle 14. Rebounds La Grande 30 (Bomberger 8, McMahan 8), La Salle 28 (Jones 6). Assists La Grande 12 (Lester 4), La Salle 14 (Niebergall 6).

Pat Perkins