March 10, 2002 11:00 pm
REBOUND: Wilsonville's Lisa Draney gets a rebound over La Grande's Amanda Schuft during Saturday's state championship girls basketball game in Corvallis. (The Observer/PAT PERKINS).
REBOUND: Wilsonville's Lisa Draney gets a rebound over La Grande's Amanda Schuft during Saturday's state championship girls basketball game in Corvallis. (The Observer/PAT PERKINS).

By Pat Perkins

Observer Staff Writer

CORVALLIS The Wilsonville Wildcats finally found a way to keep the La Grande Tigers from coming back.

Wilsonville rallied from a seven-point halftime deficit with a 12-1 run in the third quarter and won its second-straight state title Saturday. The Wildcats beat La Grande at its own game 41-34 in the finals of the OSAA-U.S. Bank Class 3A Girls Basketball State Championships at Gill Coliseum.

We played a great defensive game. And we stepped up like we needed to, Wilsonville coach Cindy Anderson said. Im so proud of them.

La Grande (22-6) had come from behind to win its first three games of the tournament. Two of those wins, against Molalla and Marist, came in overtime after the Tigers got game-tying baskets in the final seconds of regulation.

I hate to say this, but you cant win many games, let alone three in a row like that, Anderson said.

Wilsonville (21-6) made sure there would be no comeback by forcing La Grande into bad shooting in the second half and controlling the rebounds. La Grandes last lead, 32-30, came with 5:21 to play after a layup by Karli Nebeker. The Tigers didnt score again until Kayla Crouch scored with 1:49 to play.

That cut Wilsonvilles lead to 35-34. Forced to foul, the Tigers watched Wilsonvilles Jill Noe make three free throws in the final 40 seconds, then add a fast break layup at the buzzer for the final score.

Wilsonville being in a championship game and winning it last year, that experience helped them a ton, La Grande coach Isaac Williams said.

Unfortunately, we didnt get the breaks and make the shots that we needed to make.

Noe was named to the all-tournament first team after her 17-point, five-assist and three-steal performance. La Grandes Christie Weaver, another first-team all-tournament selection, had 10 points, but none of that came in the second half.

They just played better, Williams said. I would like to think that us at our best would be better than anybody, (but) we just didnt play our best.

La Grande did play its best first half of the tournament. The Tigers led 25-18 at halftime on the strength of Weavers 10 points, only four turnovers and 41 percent shooting. The defense held Wilsonville to 37 percent shooting.

Half a minute into the third quarter, Wilsonville had cut the lead in half. A long jumper by Julie Clark and a layup by Lauren Wippel trimmed La Grandes lead to 25-22.

La Grande didnt have a field goal in the third quarter and settled for three free throws.

Wilsonville had a 30-28 lead going into the fourth, but that vanished after baskets by Lindsey Carmichael and Nebeker.

The Tigers had opportunities to take the lead or tie the game in the final minute. Williams called a timeout with 1:06 left and his team down by one, but Weaver missed a shot over Noe.

Noe made a free throw with 40 seconds to play, and when she missed the second shot, the jump ball called on the rebound went Wilsonvilles way. Noe was then fouled again, but this time she missed, and La Grandes Shalece Hibbert was fouled on the rebound.

Hibbert, playing with an injured right pinkie, missed the free throw, and Wilsonvilles Lisa Draney rebounded. Draney made a free throw to stretch the lead to 37-34. When La Grande got the ball back, a layup attempt by Nebeker was blocked by Draney, who finished with six blocked shots.

Noe finished the game with two free throws and the layup at the buzzer.

These girls love to compete. They just got it done, Anderson said.

The loss gave the Tigers a second-place trophy, a step higher than last years third-place finish. La Grande has trophied at the state tournament three years in a row, starting with an eighth-place finish at the 2000 Class 4A tournament.

Carmichael was named to the all-tournament second team on the strength of her game-winning baskets against Molalla and Marist.

Crouch had 10 points and seven rebounds for the Tigers. Amanda Schuft had four steals.

Wilsonville girls 9 9 12 11 41

La Grande 12 13 3 6 34

Wilsonville Clark 2-5 0-0 4, Noe 6-17 5-9 17, Wippel 2-8 1-4 5, Rustrum 3-4 2-3 8, Draney 3-5 1-2 7, Colvin, Smith 0-1 0-0 0, Limb. Totals: 16-40 9-18 41.

La Grande Weaver 4-12 0-2 10, Carmichael 1-6 0-0 2, Schuft 1-6 2-2 4, Nebeker 2-7 0-0 5, Hibbert 1-6 1-3 3, Crouch 3-4 4-6 10. Totals: 12-41 7-13 34.

Three-pointers Wilsonville 0-6 (Clark 0-1, Noe 0-5), La Grande 3-16 (Weaver 2-4, Carmichael 0-3, Schuft 0-1, Nebeker 1-3, Hibbert 0-5). Fouled out Rustrum. Total fouls Wilsonville 11, La Grande 14. Technical fouls None. Turnovers Wilsonville 15, La Grande 15. Rebounds Wilsonville 32 (Draney 12), La Grande 29 (Crouch 7). Assists Wilsonville 9 (Noe 5), La Grande 8 (Carmichael 3).