March 06, 2001 11:00 pm
UNDER PRESSURE: La Grande's Preston Roe keeps the ball away from a Madras defender during Tuesday's first-round game. (The Observer/C.J. GISH).
UNDER PRESSURE: La Grande's Preston Roe keeps the ball away from a Madras defender during Tuesday's first-round game. (The Observer/C.J. GISH).

By C.J. Gish

Observer Staff Writer

CORVALLIS What started as a stroll to victory turned into a nightmare of an ending.

La Grandes boys basketball team did nearly everything right as it built a 15-point, first-half lead, but key players in foul trouble and a second-half Madras surge led to a 60-56 heartbreaking loss Tuesday morning.

The defeat means the Tigers will play seventh-ranked Henley in the consolation quarterfinals of the OSAA-U.S. Bank Class 3A State Championships at 2 p.m. today at Corvallis High School.

The Tigers missed three shots from the field and one from the free throw line and they turned the ball over twice in the final 3:27.

La Grande coach Aaron Mills summed up his feelings immediately following the game.

That sucked. It was our first game at the tournament and we had jitters. The difference between us and Madras is that theyve been here for the past three years.

The inexperience was never more apparent than in the opening quarter. La Grande built a 19-6 lead, but it could have been much more. The Tigers defense forced numerous turnovers, but missed layup or putback opportunities on six possessions.

We came out cold, senior post Tanner Abel said.

It didnt help that three of La Grandes starters were hit hard with fouls. Senior point guard Devin Orton, who made life miserable for Madras guards in the first quarter with his defensive presence, was hit with three opening-half fouls. Abel, who dominated the paint on both sides of the court with 11 points and six blocked shots in the opening half, picked up his third foul early in the third quarter. And if that werent bad enough, Ross Weaver, who scored a game-high 21 points, picked up his third foul in the third quarter.

We never did have our full (starting) squad out there in the second half, Mills said. We had twice as many fouls and they didnt have one guy in foul trouble. Im not saying those calls werent fouls, I just want it to be consistent (for both teams). We were taken out of our game.

The foul trouble kept La Grande on its heels. Even when Orton and Abel were in the game, they werent as aggressive defensively as they were during the Tigers first-half surge.

You have too many fouls and youre not able to defend, Mills said.

The sixth-ranked White Buffaloes (17-9) took advantage by erasing a 45-35 deficit late in the third quarter. They scored nine unanswered points, including a buzzer-beating basket at the end of the third by Colter Barnes, who had his shot blocked but grabbed the ball and connected on the putback.

The surge in momentum had turned and Madras took advantage by going ahead 50-49 on a pair of Kye Wells free throws with 5:47 left in the game.

Weaver made a driving layup on the next possession, followed by Abel hitting a baseline jumper and a Weaver free throw for a 54-50 edge with 4:12 remaining. Once again, the White Buffaloes charged back to knot the game at 54-all.

An Orton driving layup attempt hit the rim of the basket and was grabbed by Madras, which scored again to take the lead for good, 56-54. A Weaver lob pass to Abel was stolen by David White and Wells then scored on a layup.

Weaver would close the score to 58-56 with two free throws. Garron Lamoreau had a chance to tie the contest with 12 seconds left, but he missed the front end of a one-and-one free throw situation. The Tigers rebounded the miss, but Preston Roes 3-point attempt bounced off the rim.

In the opening half, La Grande forced 12 turnovers, including eight steals, and blocked seven shots en route to building a 31-21 lead.

Madras is a tough team. Theyre winners and they know how to make shots, Mills said.

Abel finished with 15 points. Orton had eight and three steals. Lamoreau pulled down a team-high 11 rebounds. Roe added six points and three steals.

Wells paced Madras with 20 points and seven rebounds. Barnes had 12 points and 16 rebounds.

Madras boys 6 15 21 18 60

La Grande 19 12 14 11 56

Madras Walker 2-11 1-4 7, Wells 8-16 4-5 20, Frank 4-11 2-2 11, White 4-8 2-4 10, Barnes 2-11 8-10 12, Easterling 0-4 0-0 0, Barnes 0-0 0-2 0. Totals: 20-61 17-27 60.

La Grande Abel 6-13 3-3 15, Roe 3-11 0-0 6, Weaver 7-11 6-8 21, Orton 4-6 0-0 8, Lamoreau 0-4 1-3 1, Schuft, Pennington 0-2 0-0 0, Lester 1-7 0-0 2, Squire 1-2 0-0 2, Hitchon. Totals: 22-56 10-14 56.

Three-pointers Madras 3-10 (Walker 2-4, Frank 1-3, Wells 0-2, Barnes 0-1), La Grande 2-8 (Lester 1-2, Weaver 1-2, Roe 0-2, Lamoreau 0-1, Pennington 0-1). Total fouls Madras 16, La Grande 18. Fouled out Orton. Technical fouls Weaver. Turnovers Madras 17, La Grande 12. Rebounds Madras 50 (Barnes 16), La Grande 30 (Lamoreau 11). Assists Madras 11 (Walker 5), La Grande 12 (Abel 3). Blocked shots Madras 3 (Wells, White, Barnes), La Grande 8 (Abel 6). Steals Madras 7 (White 3), La Grande 12 (Roe 3, Orton 3).