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Kenzie Williams, left, and the La Grande Tigers are one win from reaching the 4A state tournament.

LA GRANDE — It’s been four years since the La Grande girls basketball team reached the Class 4A state tournament. 

The Tigers are one win away from making that elusive return trip, as Friday they host Cascade in a first-round playoff game.

Cascade is a team La Grande has seen at the state level — in fact, in that very tournament in 2016, when the Cougars clipped La Grande 52-47 in the 4A state semifinals.

The Tigers (17-7 overall) have spent much of the season in the top five in the OSAA rankings and take a fifth seed into the matchup with the Cougars (15-9). La Grande has won eight of its last 10 contests, with the only two losses in that stretch to Baker, which won the Greater Oregon League.

Cascade has heated up after a rough start to the season — including a six-game losing streak at one point — and enters having won 10 of its last 11. The lone loss in that stretch was to Philomath, the top-ranked team in Class 4A and the Oregon West Conference champion. Cascade was second in the OWC.

The Tigers boast a stronger offense and defense on paper, averaging 50.5 points per game and allowing just 36.8. The Cougars, meanwhile, score 45.9 and allow 40.5 points on average. 

La Grande also has wins over four common opponents that Cascade lost to — Madras, Molalla, Yamhill-Carlton and McLoughlin. Each of those losses, though, came during a stretch where the Cougars lost seven times in nine games.

The winner of the 6 p.m. contest will play at 3:15 p.m. March 12 in the state quarterfinals in Forest Grove against either Junction City or Astoria.

LHS boys to battle top-ranked Marist

The La Grande boys basketball team came out of nowhere to win a share of the Greater Oregon League title and the GOL tournament, taking nine of its last 11 games after a 1-10 start.

The Tigers will need to pull off a similar stunner to get to the Class 4A state tournament. They hit the road to face top-ranked Marist in Eugene Friday at 7 p.m. 

The Spartans (21-3 overall), who won the Sky Em League with a perfect 10-0 record, enter on a 12-game winning streak and have won 13 in a row at home. Marist, which is averaging 58.8 points per game and allowing 45.2, boasts the best record in 4A and has wins over Seaside, Gladstone, Henley, Hidden Valley, Marshfield and Cascade — all teams in the playoffs — on its resume.

The Tigers (10-12 overall) have the tightest point differential of all but one team in the final 16 with an average offensive output of 53.3 points per game and a defense that allows 52.0. But La Grande has held its last six opponents to 50 points or fewer — all teams it defeated — and is 10-1 when it holds teams to 52 points or less on the season.

La Grande is seeking its first state tournament berth since 2018, while the Spartans are hoping to go for the second year in a row after placing sixth last year.

The winner meets either Seaside or Gladstone at 1:30 p.m. March 12 in Forest Grove.

East Region Sports Editor

Ronald's primary beats are Eastern Oregon University, La Grande High School and the other eight high schools of Union and Wallowa counties. As an avid sports fan, he is primarily reading about or watching sports when he isn't covering a game.

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