WILD FINISH

January 20, 2003 12:00 am

By Raenelle Kwock

Observer Staff Writer

For a split second, the La Grande Tigers and Baker Bulldogs had no idea who had won their Greater Oregon League game Saturday.

With 3.4 seconds remaining, the Bulldogs' Stephen Henry drove up the court and hoisted a potential game-winning three-pointer through the air. After it hit the bottom of the net, the Bulldogs celebrated as if they had won, but the shot was waived off.

The Tigers erupted with cheers, and the Bulldogs were stunned by the call. That final call gave the Tigers a 46-44 win.

The game should not have been that close, as the Tigers only hit 12 shots compared to the Bulldogs' 19.

"It's encouraging when we played defense to get a win like this," La Grande coach Aaron Mills said. "I'm a little disappointed how we shot the ball."

He said the Tigers missed many shots within five feet, but they picked up points here and there to make up for it.

Those points came in a flurry in the fourth quarter after trailing the Bulldogs 42-37 with 3:42 remaining.

The Tigers' Seth Pennington made a one-handed steal and passed to Kelly Moore, who was fouled by Mike Vaughan with 2:31 left. Moore hit two free throws to make it 42-39.

Then, Kyle Bomberger was stripped but recovered the ball and was fouled. Bomberger hit two free throws to cut the Bulldogs' lead to 42-41.

With 1:09 left, Bomberger put the Tigers ahead 43-42, but the Bulldogs answered with a goal by David Henry to re-gain the lead with 29 seconds left.

After the Bulldogs called their final timeout with 28 seconds, Bomberger's basket with 17 seconds left gave the Tigers a 45-44 lead.

Then, the Tigers' Steve McMahan stole the ball and was fouled by Mitch Grove.

Afterward, there was discussion on how much time should be put back on the clock.

As McMahan stepped to the free-throw line with 3.4 seconds remaining, he missed the first shot, then hit the second leading up to the Bulldogs' final possession.

Bomberger scored 17 points to lead the Tigers (6-9 overall, 2-0 GOL). Mitch Grove had 13 points for the Bulldogs.

The Tigers' next game is at home against Riverside at 6 p.m. Friday.

Baker boys 12 10 10 12 — 44

La Grande 12 14 8 12 — 46

Baker — Ty Nichols 2 2-2 6, Stephen Henry 4 0-0 8, David Henry 8 0-0 16, Tyler Mack 0 1-2 1, Mitch Grove 5 3-6 13, Barry Spooner, Joe Sullivan, Mike Vaughan, Scott Haberle. Totals: 19 6-10 44.

La Grande — Tyler Tucker 1 0-0 2, Aaron Nebeker 0 1-2 1, Kelly Moore 4 3-5 12, Kyle Bomberger 6 5-6 17, Seth Pennington 1 5-6 7, Steve McMahan 1 3-4 5, Skyler MacDonald 0 2-2 2, Ben Pettit. Totals: 13 19-25 46.

Three-pointers — Baker, none; La Grande 1 (Moore). Fouled out — MacDonald. Total fouls — Baker 20, La Grande 14. Technical fouls — None.