NORTH POWDER — The Powder Valley girls basketball team found a rhythm offensively after a low-scoring first half Tuesday and held off a late rally by Nixyaawii to earn an important Old Oregon League home win.
Belle Blair scored all 17 of her points in the second half and had six points during a key game-closing 10-3 run as the Badgers got by the Golden Eagles, 45-36.
“We just really got through our minds that we weren’t going to lose that game,” Blair said. “That’s what really pulled us through.”
Blair, who had eight points in the fourth, had a layup 39 seconds into the period for a 31-21 lead, but the Golden Eagles caught fire from 3-point range, getting as close as 35-33 with 2:47 to play after Trista Melton hit her second trey of the quarter.
Blair followed with a pair of key baskets in the next two minutes to help put the game away. A free throw and a layup by Blair pushed the lead back to five with 1:53 to play. Josi Krieger added two free throws to make it 40-33 with 55.5 seconds left, and Blair made it a nine-point game with a steal and layup with 41 seconds to go. The Golden Eagles got no closer than seven the rest of the way.
Blair did a little bit of everything to help Powder Valley to a win that showed where the team stacked up against one of the teams vying for a playoff position in the loaded OOL-North, adding eight rebounds, four steals, two assists and a block.
“She played really well, but I hate to single out anybody in the game. That was a fun defensive game,” head coach Allen Bingham said. “Our man defense was really tough. I don’t think (the Golden Eagles) were used to that. Made them earn it. Belle obviously had a great game and really helped us, but it was a really nice team win.”
Offensively, Blair helped spark the Badgers in the third after a first half that saw the teams combine for 20 points. The junior banked in a 3-pointer six seconds into the third to give Powder Valley a 15-8 lead, then had a steal and a layup for a 22-12 edge with 4:30 to play in the third. A second banked-in 3-pointer — this one from Dallee Jo Bingham — gave the Badgers their largest lead at 25-14 just over a minute later.
“I just think we loosened up and shot the ball a little bit, and we scored in transition a few times and kind of got things going,” the Powder Valley coach said.
Both teams struggled to get a flow on offense in a first half that saw the teams shoot a combined 7-for-41 and commit 24 turnovers. Powder Valley, which never trailed, led by as much as four points in the opening half, including at 12-8 going into the break when Keanna Bingham scored following a steal with 1:55 to play in the half.
Blair said the slow start could have been in part to the different feel with the game being played on a school night.
“It doesn’t feel like a regular weekend game. Once we get warmed up and ready to go, we get going a little better,” she said.
Krieger and Keanna Bingham both added nine points for Powder Valley. Krieger also had nine rebounds, three assists and three steals. Lark Moses scored 11 points to lead Nixyaawii, and Melton scored 10 points.
Powder Valley (11-8 overall, 7-2 OOL) hosts La Grande Saturday.