The La Grande Tigers boys basketball team secured itself no worse than a tie for second in the Greater Oregon League with a hard-fought 61-56 home win over the McLoughlin Pioneers on Saturday.
But bigger than how the league positioning may fall as a result of the win, Head Coach Mark Carollo said his focus was on what the win will do for the team from a mental aspect as it finishes the regular season.
“Yes it gets us that tie for second, but at the end of the day, it helps us with our own confidence, especially coming down the stretch,” he said. “(If) we can be playing our best basketball now, that’s any coach’s dream. Maybe this season hasn’t gone how we wanted it, but we can still make a lot out of it.”
A game of swings saw La Grande torch the nets early, then Mac-Hi respond with some net-burning shooting of its own before the Tigers clamped down on defense in the second half and held on to avenge an earlier loss to the Pioneers.
“It was a really big win, especially after we went down to Mac-Hi and didn’t play well. We scored two points in the first quarter (in the last contest),” said Braden Bell, who led La Grande with 13 points. “It was nice to get our offense rolling again and then lock it down on defense. We struggled a little bit in the fist half on defense, but in the second half we figured it out.”
The Tigers appeared primed to blow out Mac-Hi early with Kaleb Myer, Bell and Hunter Youngblood all hitting 3-pointers during a torrid first quarter that saw La Grande lead by as many as 12 points and end with a 19-10 lead.
The margin hit 12 again early in the second before the Pioneers got hot.
Mac-Hi made its first six shots of the second quarter as part of an 18-0 run to go ahead 28-22 after a Dareagan Stephens 3-pointer and a steal and layup from Alexis Pio, who led Mac-Hi with 19 points. A late 3-pointer by Myer and two Cristian Mendoza free-throw helped bring La Grande even at 31-31 at the half.
Then the Tigers retook the lead for good thanks in large part to Kaden Chandler. The senior post scored all 11 of his points in the third quarter. At one stretch he scored nine straight for La Grande, including a steal that led to a 3-point-play to push the lead back to 12 at 46-34.
“Kaden was being very patient, getting the shot he wanted and being aggressive,” Carollo said. “That was obviously something that helped us out tonight, but it was a collective group effort.”
It was a stark difference from the first half when La Grande lived by the 3-pointer, hitting 7-of-14 shots from beyond the arc. Bell said part of that was due to what the Pioneer defense was giving them.
“They came out in that zone in the first half, and that left the 3-point shots wide open for us,” Bell said. “They switched to a man (in the second half) and we had to look for Kaden. He came through. It’s nice having a good post presence down there.”
Mac-Hi made it interesting in the fourth, getting as close as 59-56 on a 3-pointer by Armando Ruiz with
41 seconds to play, but La Grande went 5-for-8 from the free-throw line in the final 91 seconds to hold on.
Youngblood joined Bell and Chandler in double figures, scoring 10 points for La Grande, which shot 49 percent (20-for-41) for the game. Youngblood also had 10 rebounds.
La Grande (6-11 overall, 3-2 GOL) hosts Baker in its regular-season finale Friday.
Heppner 78, Union 57
The Union Bobcats boys basketball team quickly fell behind by double figures against league-leading Heppner and never recovered as the Mustangs rolled to a 78-57 road win Saturday. The win locked up the BMC title and a playoff berth for Heppner.
Union fell behind 21-11 early and saw the deficit grow to 39-23 by halftime as Heppner outscored the Bobcats in each quarter.
Keegan Glenn led the way with 24 points, 12 rebounds and five steals for Union. Tate Lantis added nine points and eight boards.
Union (13-7 overall, 6-4 BMC), which slipped into a tie for third with Stanfield, hosts Weston-McEwen in its home finale Tuesday.
Stanfield 55, Enterprise 42
The Enterprise Outlaws boys basketball team hung with the Stanfield Tigers during the first half Saturday before Stanfield pulled ahead for good in a 55-42 road win in Blue Mountain Conference play.
Enterprise was up three after one, and the teams were tied at 23-23 at the half, but the Outlaws struggled to find a rhythm in the third while Stanfield built its lead to 37-29 before adding on in the fourth.
Devin Greer scored 18 points to lead Enterprise, while Dylan Marr added nine points and Coy Aschenbrenner chipped in with eight.
The Outlaws (9-13 overall, 3-8 BMC) wrap up the regular season Friday at Grant Union.
Joseph 57, Elgin 22
Mason Ferré led the way with 20 points, and the Joseph Eagles boys basketball team used a 35-9 run over the second and third quarters to pull away for a 57-22 road win over the Elgin Huskies Saturday in Old Oregon League play.
The win not only locked up an OOL district tournament berth for the Eagles, but moved them one win away from the No. 2 seed in the OOL-North.
The extended scoring run — a 15-3 spurt in the second and a 20-6 rally in the third — turned a 9-6 edge for the Eagles into a commanding 44-15 lead after three quarters.
Tyler Homan added 11 points for Joseph.
Kaden McClure scored six points to lead Elgin, which clinched a district tournament berth despite the loss with Wallowa’s loss to Pine Eagle.
Joseph (14-7 overall, 7-2 OOL) hosts Imbler Tuesday, while Elgin (11-8, 6-4) hosts Nixyaawii Friday.
Nixyaawii 71, Imbler 37
The Imbler Panthers boys basketball team found itself in an early double-digit hole and was unable to climb out in a 71-37 road loss to the Nixyaawii Golden Eagles Saturday in Old Oregon League play.
Nixy built a 19-6 lead in the first quarter and kept rolling. It 20 points in the second to take a 39-14 lead at the break and never looked back.
Jayce Burnette was the bright spot on offense for Imbler with 25 points, including 12 of the team’s 14 points in the first half.
The Panthers (7-11 overall, 4-5 OOL) visit Joseph Tuesday.
Pine Eagle 41, Wallowa 32
The Wallowa Cougars boys basketball team suffered a 41-32 home loss to the Pine Eagle Spartans Saturday in Old Oregon League play.
The loss eliminated Wallowa from contention in the OOL district tournament, as the Cougars can now finish no better than fourth in the OOL-North.
Stats were not available.
Wallowa (6-14 overall, 3-7 OOL) visits Joseph Friday.
Griswold 37, Cove 32
The Cove Leopards boys basketball team was dealt a 37-32 home loss to the Griswold Grizzlies Saturday in Old Oregon League action.
Stats were not available.
Cove (11-8 overall, 4-5 OOL), which is tied for second in the OOL-South with Imbler, faces the Panthers on the road Friday.
Stanfield 64, Union 58
A fourth-quarter comeback
attempt by the Union Bobcats boys basketball team fell short as it lost on the road to the Stanfield Tigers in Blue Mountain Conference play Friday, 64-58.
Union trailed most of the night and was down 46-36 after three quarters. The Bobcats found a spark with 22 points in the final period, but it wasn’t enough.
Keegan Glenn had a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds to lead Union. Tate Lantis added 11 points, nine rebounds and four blocked shots. Cole McLean had 10 points and Jace Phillips scored nine points.
Heppner 59, Enterprise 48
Despite having the top three scorers in the game, the Enterprise Outlaws boys basketball team was unable to overcome league-leading Heppner in a 59-48 home loss to the Mustangs Friday in Blue Mountain Conference play.
Both Devin Greer and David Salim scored 11 points to lead Enterprise, while Dylan Marr added 10 points. Heppner, though, used a strong second quarter to build a 27-18 halftime lead, and after Enterprise cut the margin to eight point through three quarters, the Mustangs scored 20 points in the fourth to secure the win.
The loss means Enterprise can finish no higher than fourth in the BMC, and at best third in the BMC district tournament. Only the top two spots in the tournament are guaranteed state playoff berths.
Imbler 46, Wallowa 30
Jayce Burnette and Will Coston both scored 10 points to lead the Imbler Panthers boys basketball team to a 46-30 home win over the Wallowa Cougars Friday in Old Oregon League play.
The Panthers broke open a close game with a 12-2 third-quarter run, turning an 11-10 halftime lead into a 23-12 advantage after three quarters. Imbler then salted the win away at the free-throw line, going 17-for-22 from the charity stripe in the fourth quarter.
Christopher Nobles scored 22 points, including 15 in the second half, to lead the Cougars.
Joseph 53, Pine Eagle 36
A big third-quarter run gave the Joseph Eagles boys basketball team the surge it needed to distance itself from a pesky Pine Eagle Spartans squad in a 53-36 road win Friday in the Old Oregon League.
Joseph outscored Pine Eagle 18-5 in the third, turning a six-point halftime lead into a 43-24 margin after three quarters as it broke the game open.
Tyler Homan had eight of his team-high 15 points in the decisive third quarter. Hadley Miller added 13 points and Mason Ferré chipped in with eight points.
Elgin 69, Cove 53
Kaden McClure led the way with 22 points as the Elgin Huskies boys basketball team outscored the Cove Leopards in each quarter for a 69-53 home win Friday in Old Oregon League play.
Gage McKay added 16 points and Brandon Caldwell had nine points for the Huskies, who built a 34-22 halftime lead behind 12 first-half points by McClure.
Chase Tennis scored 10 points to lead the way for the Leopards, while Cameron Dillman had nine points.