PREP BASKETBALL: La Grande set for rematch against Falcons

By Joshua Johnson March 12, 2014 11:05 am

La Grande’s Kirstin Ward and her teammates open the Class 4A tournament at 8:15 p.m. tonight.
La Grande’s Kirstin Ward and her teammates open the Class 4A tournament at 8:15 p.m. tonight.
As the La Grande girls basketball team prepares for its quarterfinal state playoff game against La Salle Prep at 8:15 p.m. tonight, head coach Doug Girdner knows his team is ready.

Last year, La Grande was the No. 2 seed in the Class 4A bracket.

This year, the Tigers went 17-5 to get to this point in the season’s finale — including a perfect 6-0 season in the Greater Oregon League, something the Tigers have accomplished three years in a row.

The team is young, with two freshmen and five sophomores making up the bulk of its players. The three juniors and one senior on the team have taught the younger players well and in spite of initial doubts about the team making it to where it is today, it has come to state with flying colors.

Girdner doesn’t really feel that La Grande has ever been the underdog that some people thought they would be.

“In a way I think we were but in another way I don’t think we were,” Girdner said. “We were perceived that way by a lot of people, but we have done as well this year as compared to last year going into the state tournament.

“The expectations aren’t as high, so I guess in that way we are the underdogs.”

Without the pressure of being in the spotlight as much, the Tigers can focus on going out and playing their games.

Girdner is convinced that if they play good defense and take care of the ball, they will have fun and do just fine.

“We have to go out there with poise and confidence and take care of business,” Girdner said. “As long as we take care of the ball, we are going to get our buckets.”

La Salle Prep is currently on a 17 game win streak including a previous win, 71-43, against La Grande on Saturday, January 4.

The previous game is not even a worry to La Grande.

“We are not even the same team,” Girdner said, with a chuckle. “(The Tigers) were pretty immature basketball players to start with.”

After weeks of experience and coming together as a team, La Grande is ready to face La Salle Prep once more — the team that handed them their worst defeat all season.

As a comparison, the first time the Tigers played Pendleton, La Grande lost by nine points, 59-50, but in their second matchup La Grande beat Pendleton by seven, 57-50. Against Nyssa for the first game, once more La Grande lost by nine points, 53-44, and again in the second matchup La Grande won by 21 points, 53-32.

“It just shows how much they’ve improved,” Girdner said. “We are looking to do the same for La Salle.”

According to Girdner, growing up and gelling as a team has changed La Grande into the team that not only made it to state yet again but also maintained the previous years’ records and rankings for the school.  

However, La Salle is not the end of the line for the state tournament. The number one team to beat and the favorite to win is Southerland High School.

“(Southerland is) really deep and can sub in any member and not drop off at all,” Girdner said.

Overall La Grande is ready for its games but the nerves are starting to show a little.

Some of them are going to worry about things. That’s just the way it goes,” Girdner said. “Hopefully they will get over it quick.

“We just have to forget about it and play the ball game to the best of our ability.”