La Grande was mere seconds away from locking up fourth place at the Class 4A state tournament Saturday morning.
Until the Tigers found themselves on the wrong side of an answered prayer.
Marshfield’s Chase Howerton banked in a long 3-pointer to beat the fourth-quarter buzzer and tie the score, and the Pirates rode the momentum of the miracle heave to a 69-64 overtime victory in the fourth-place game at Forest Grove High School, which sent La Grande to a sixth-place finish.
“It’s a heartbreaker, for sure,” La Grande head coach Mark Carollo said. “I think (Howerton) would tell you it’s just one of those shots that you’re lucky to make.
After that I tried to huddle them back up (but) at that point the momentum was rolling with the other team.”
The back and forth contest had been controlled by La Grande much of the fourth quarter, with the Tigers taking as much as a 46-39 lead on a jumper by Cade Reed with just under six minutes to play.
A 7-0 Marshfield run tied the score, and the Pirates briefly took a 51-48 lead on Grant Webster’s 3-pointer with about 2:40 left.
The Tigers retook the lead on a pair of free throws by both Kaden Chandler and Hunter Youngblood, then Youngblood put in a layup for a 54-51 edge with less than 90 seconds to play.
The Tigers, though, left the door open for Marshfield by missing twice at the free-throw line in the final 45 seconds. Howerton then banked in the tying shot from about 30 feet out to knot the score at 56-all.
“It was a heave,” Carollo said. “As soon as he let it go he had his eyes on it. It’s exciting for them. I can’t take anything away from them. We had our chances at the free-throw line (but) I would never blame a kid or (blame it on) a single play.”
The Pirates took the lead for good early in the extra session, going up 60-56 on two free throws and a jumper by Webster. The lead grew to 65-58 with less than 30 seconds to play. G.T. Blackman’s 3 trimmed the margin to four with 19 seconds left, but the Tigers got no closer.
“We battled in OT. It’s tough to lose like that,” Carollo said. “The day before we did that in a similar degree to Sisters.”
The Pirates briefly took a 24-23 lead early in the third quarter on a 3-point by Jordy Miles, who led the Pirates with 23 points and six assists. But a 3-pointer and then a four-point play by Nojah Chamberlain who had 16 points, helped La Grande take its largest lead at 31-24.
From that point on the contest was a game of cat and mouse, with Marshfield repeatedly making a run at the Tigers only to see La Grande inch back ahead. Jacob Carpenter’s layup capped a 6-0 run to cut the margin to 31-30, but another Chamberlain 3 and Youngblood layup made it 36-30. Miles opened the fourth with a triple to trim the deficit to 39-37 before Chamberlain again connected from long range and Chandler scored inside to make it 44-37. Reed’s jumper later kept the gap at seven before the Pirates finally caught up and set the stage for Howerton’s heroics.
Howerton finished with 13 for Marshfield to join Miles and Webster (19 points) in double figures.
Chamberlain led La Grande with 16 points, the third time in three games he led the Tigers in scoring. He also connected on four 3-pointers, and for the tournament was 50 percent (12-for-24) from deep.
“Nojah had a great tournament,” Carollo said. “(He) shot the ball extremely well. I think he made four 3s in every game. He totally matured throughout the year. I think he was playing some of his best basketball toward the end. I’m glad he could go out like that.”
Chandler added 11 points and seven rebounds, while Blackman had 10 points, eight rebounds and five assists.
The Tigers finish with a record of 18-9 overall, and secured the program’s first trophy since taking fifth in 2014.
“I’m proud of these boys,” Carollo said. “Going to miss the seniors but look forward to the group ahead.”
Hunter Youngblood scored the winning basket inside in the final seconds, and La Grande rallied from a 13-point second-half deficit to eke out a 57-56 victory over Sisters in the consolation semifinals of the state tournament Friday morning at Pacific University in Forest Grove.
“Super proud of the boys to show their resilience, come back and keep fighting,” LHS head coach Mark Carollo said.
With La Grande trailing by one in the closing seconds, Youngblood took a pass at the high-post, made a move toward the rim and scored off-glass with three seconds left to give the Tigers the lead for good and cap off a wild final 3:11 that saw five lead changes.
“Hunter had a really good second half,” Carollo said. He got it at the high-post with a little space and took it to the right side. The lay in held on the rim and then rolled in.”
Sisters’ last-second heave from half-court at the buzzer missed.
La Grande was staring elimination in the face most of the morning, perhaps no more clearly than when Zach Anderson connected on a jumper to give Sisters a 46-33 lead — its largest of the game — with less than three minutes to play in the third quarter.
But the Tigers, who struggled offensively much of the first three quarters and shot just 39 percent for the contest, controlled the last 10 minutes of the game. La Grande shot 9-for-15 in the final 9:57 of the contest, and was 7-for-10 in the fourth quarter. The Tigers got four points from Kaden Chandler and a 3-pointer from Nojah Chamberlain to end the third on a 7-0 run. Two free throws by Nick Tsiatsos and a layup by Chandler brought La Grande within two in the fourth quarter, and Youngblood tied the score at 48-all with 4:15 to play with a steal and layup.
After a rebound and putback by Ty Horner, who led all players with 18 points and 12 rebounds, Chamberlain hit a 3-for a 51-50 LHS lead — its first since the first quarter.
The teams traded the lead three more times in the next 2-1/2 minutes, with Sisters going up 56-53 on two Isaiah Rush free throws with 32 seconds left. But Youngblood had a layup, and La Grande benefited when Noah Richards missed the front end of a 1-and-1, giving the Tigers the final chance at the win.
Chamberlain and G.T. Blackman both finished with 16 points for the Tigers. Blackman added four assists and three steals and Chandler had 10 points, nine rebounds and three steals. Youngblood added nine points.
Jack Berg and Anderson both joined Horner in double figures for Sisters, finishing with 12 and 11 points, respectively. Sisters shot 49 percent, including 62 percent in the first half to build a 37-27 lead at the break.
“I told them, ‘I don’t know if (Sisters) can shoot this well the entire game,’” Carollo said of part of his message to the team.
Sisters, indeed, cooled off. The Outlaws were just 6-for-18 and committed 12 of their 19 turnovers in the second half, which La Grande turned into 13 points. The Tigers had just five points off turnovers in the first half.
“I credit our defense in the second half. We ratcheted it up a couple notches,” Carollo said.