Tiger tested

By Paul Harder, The Observer January 03, 2014 10:58 am

La Grande’s Brandon Dall lays in ball in off the glass during a 64-55 win against Pendleton Thursday night. (CHRIS BAXTER/The Observer)
La Grande’s Brandon Dall lays in ball in off the glass during a 64-55 win against Pendleton Thursday night. (CHRIS BAXTER/The Observer)

La Grande sneaks by 5A Pendleton at home 

When you look good, you play good. At least that’s what junior Jake Powell said after the La Grande boys basketball team extended its winning streak to five games with a 64-55 win against Pendleton Thursday.

“It must be the new uniforms,” Powell said. “(Pendleton) is a good team. They’re quick. We just played pretty good defense, and hit some big shots late to pull it out.

“We’re working really hard in practice to make sure this season is a good one.”

The one thing that didn’t look good, though, was the shooting at the free throw line to open the fourth quarter. La Grande went 5-of-11 during the opening 5 1/2 minutes of the final quarter. That allowed a Pendleton team, trying to sweep the season series, to climb back into the game.

Buckaroos senior Donte Robinson did everything he could in the final quarter to get his team back in the game, shooting 4-of-5 from the floor, while scoring 10 points. His 3-pointer with just over a minute left in the game cut the lead to 57-55.

But, that’s when the free-throw shooting finally showed up for the Tigers, in the form of Powell. He went 7-of-8 from the free-throw line in the final 45 seconds to close out the game, and had a game-high 16 points.

The Tigers got the benefit of trips to the foul line during the game, shooting 36 times throughout the course of the game, but only made 21. Pendleton couldn’t get to the foul line, going 1-of-4 in the game.

“Free throw shooting was a point of emphasis coming back from the state tournament,” La Grande head coach Mark Carollo said. “We also needed to cut down the turnovers. I felt like we did a good job taking care of the ball, and hit the big free throws when we needed to. It would have been nice to make a for more earlier in the game though.”

Powell attributed the effort during the game to the loss to the Buckaroos to open the season.

“We wanted this one real bad after the overtime loss,” Powell said. “It’s a big win for us, but now we need to move forward to the next game.”

La Grande was cruising after one quarter, leading 15-9, and kept the streaky shooting going into the half. Brandon Dall’s 3-point attempt at the buzzer clung to the rim for what seemed like a second, before Dall gave a fist pump after it finally fell through the net, helping the Tigers push the lead back out to nine points, 32-23.

Dall hit another big 3-pointer to cap the third quarter, he finished with 15 points, giving his team the 41-38 lead after Pendleton tied the score 38-all. 

“Those were big,” Powell said. “Brandon’s shots got the entire team fired up, and gave us the extra energy we needed to finish out the game.”

Dall’s third-quarter shot was one of three that went down for the Tigers during a tough shooting stretch, La Grande went 3-of-12 coming out of the half.

“We had some really good looks at the basket tonight,” Carollo said. “They just weren’t going down. You’re going to have those nights during a season, but you still have to find a way to win.”

Troy Williams scored 13 points, while Wicklander added 10 for the Tigers.

The Buckaroos (5-6) also got 14 points from Kai Quinn, while Joel Boozer added 10 points.

La Grande (6-2) will host Fruitland, Idaho, at 6 p.m. tonight.