TIGERS REACH CHAMPIONSHIP

March 08, 2002 11:00 pm
HAPPY: La Grande's Karli Nebeker, left, and Shalece Hibbert celebrate after the Tigers' 48-37 overtime victory over the Marist Spartans in Friday's state semifinal game. (The Observer/PAT PERKINS).
HAPPY: La Grande's Karli Nebeker, left, and Shalece Hibbert celebrate after the Tigers' 48-37 overtime victory over the Marist Spartans in Friday's state semifinal game. (The Observer/PAT PERKINS).

By Pat Perkins

Observer Staff Writer

CORVALLIS The comeback kids from La Grande have played their way into the state finals.

Thanks to timely shooting, tenacious defense and a refuse-to-lose attitude, the Tigers knocked off top-ranked Marist 51-47 in overtime Friday night to reach their first-ever state championship game.

They needed to come from behind for the third game at this tournament at Gill Coliseum, and for the second night in a row, they needed a late score from Lindsey Carmichael just to stay alive.

Carmichaels shot in the key with four seconds left in regulation tied the game 42-42.

That play is almost always wide open, Carmichael said. The girl wasnt watching the ball, so I reached up and grabbed it over her. It felt sweet.

This is one of the best feelings Ive ever had.

La Grande (23-5) will play Wilsonville (20-6) at 7 p.m. tonight for the championship. Wilsonville knocked off Greater Oregon League runner-up Ontario 48-37 in Fridays other semifinal.

Ontario (20-7) will play Marist this afternoon in the third-place final.

Carmichael scored the winning points in Thursdays overtime win over Molalla, and a minute into overtime against Marist (25-3) she drilled No. 2 La Grandes record-tying eighth 3-pointer and put her team up for good.

Finally in this tournament we shoot the ball like were capable of, La Grande coach Isaac Williams said. We were due to shoot the ball really well.

Carmichael tied the tournament record by making all three of her 3-pointers, and La Grande set a tournament record by shooting 57 percent (8-for-14) from 3-point range. The eight 3-pointers also tied the tournament record.

La Grande had to win in overtime without leading scorer Christie Weaver, who fouled out with 27 seconds left in regulation. Weaver scored 16 points, including 11 in the first half.

Without Christie Weaver the whole overtime, other people just stepped up and did a great job, Williams said.

In overtime, Amber Rasmussen and Kayla Crouch replaced Weaver and Shalece Hibbert, who injured her right pinkie midway through the third quarter. Crouch led La Grande with eight rebounds.

I just felt that I had to go in there and play strong (and) dont let nerves get to me, Rasmussen said.

People would be tired and people would be sore, but it didnt matter, Williams said. You only get in this situation a few times and youve got to take advantage.

Marist answered Carmichaels overtime 3-pointer right away with a layup by Heidi Hoffman to cut the lead to 45-44. After that, the Tigers kept making just enough free throws (three by Schuft, one by Karli Nebeker, one by Rasmussen and one by Hibbert).

Hibberts free throw, bad hand and all, gave La Grande a 50-44 lead with 53 seconds left.

Im not a very good free throw shooter so Im really glad I made at least one, she said.

La Grande trailed by seven points in the first quarter but got a 3-pointer from Carmichael and a long jumper by Nebeker to trim the deficit to 16-12 going into the second quarter. Weaver and Hibbert had back-to-back 3-pointers for a lead that held up through halftime.

By the end of the third quarter, the lead was gone again. Marist made 8-of-10 free throws and Katie Saltmarsh had five points in the period for the Spartans.

That, and a little trash talk from the two-time all-tournament guard, angered Schuft.

She was making me mad. Shes saying little comments, (and) theyre just getting on your nerves, said Schuft, who added that she plays better when shes mad.

I was trying to keep her farther away from the key so it would be a contested shot.

I dont even know what to say about her defense on Saltmarsh in the second half, Williams said. You just cant describe it.

It worked in the fourth quarter and overtime. Saltmarshs final field goal came half a minute into the fourth quarter. Marist regained its seven-point lead, 37-30, at 6:11 after two free throws from Angie Sammons.

Once again, a Carmichael 3-pointer breathed life into the team. The teams traded baskets before a Weaver 3-pointer put the Tigers down by one. With 3:04 left, Carmichaels two free throws gave La Grande a 40-39 lead.

Ashley Chesters basket with 1 minutes left gave Marist the lead again. Saltmarsh missed then made a free throw the play that Weaver fouled out on before Carmichaels game-tying layup.

Saltmarsh finished with 10 points, while Chester had 12. La Grandes defense held the Spartans to 28 percent shooting in the second half.

All year long, our kids have worked their butts off in practice, Williams said. Ive never coached a game with these guys where I didnt feel they gave 100 percent.

The win left the players euphoric.

This is what Ive wanted all my life. Im excited. We want it all, Hibbert said.

Im so happy. Im so excited. This is the best feeling, Schuft said. I just feel really glad to be a part of it. I hope Ill feel better tomorrow night.

Marist girls 16 5 12 9 5 47

La Grande 12 10 8 12 9 51

Marist Singer 2-10 3-6 8, Saltmarsh 3-7 4-7 10, Sammons 3-4 2-2 8, Chester 5-13 2-6 12, S.Moore 2-2 1-1 5, Murphy, Lande 0-1 0-0 0, J.Moore 0-2 0-0 0, Hoffman 1-1 2-4 4. Totals: 16-40 14-26 47.

La Grande Weaver 7-13 0-0 16, Carmichael 4-5 2-2 13, Schuft 3-7 4-8 12, Nebeker 1-3 1-2 3, Hibbert 1-4 1-2 4, Rasmussen 0-0 1-2 1, Crouch 1-2 0-2 2, Jensen 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 17-35 9-18 51.

Three-pointers Marist 1-9 (Singer 1-3, Chester 0-3, Lande 0-1, J.Moore 0-2), La Grande 8-14 (Weaver 2-3, Carmichael 3-3, Schuft 2-4, Nebeker 0-1, Hibbert 1-2, Crouch 0-1). Fouled out Singer, S.Moore, Weaver, Nebeker. Total fouls Marist 19, La Grande 24. Technical fouls None. Turnovers Marist 18, La Grande 21. Rebounds Marist 27 (Saltmarsh 6), La Grande 23 (Crouch 8). Assists Marist 7 (Singer 6), La Grande 12 (Nebeker 7).