Sometimes I can be a bit of a sentimentalist, which means I’m terrible at saying goodbyes.

If you haven’t guessed from that statement, this is my final piece of writing for the East Oregonian (if you don’t count those brief baseball write-ups on Page 2B — busy to the end I guess). I’m leaving the newspaper today, one and a half years plus a day after my first assignment, heading to another gig in Missoula, Mont.

So, effectively, if you’re reading this then I am already gone.

 
 
The life and times of a community college recruiter

PENDLETON — Kim Pickett had never seen a horse before, much less climbed into the saddle. But here she was, sitting atop the big brown animal as it ambled down a rural road.

Because she’d never ridden a horse, she hadn’t known what to wear. In hindsight, though, sweatpants and flip flops probably weren’t the correct attire for equestrianism.

The Los Angeles native stood out on her ride near Touchet, Wash., though her dirt road could have been any meandering through the farm lands outside of Pendleton. The country homes were spread far enough apart to render the term neighbors obsolete, the once-green fields in each direction were beginning to fade under the August sun and some kind of little dog was happily trotting along side the horses’ clopping hooves.

 
 
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BMCC'S Darius Butler loses the ball to a steal.(Photo/EJ Hariis)
By AJ MAZZOLINI
East Oregonian

PENDLETON — As the old adage says, you can’t win games in the first half. But as the Blue Mountain Community College men proved Wednesday night, you sure can lose them there.

BMCC came out shooting boulders into Dixie Cups in the first half, managing just 13 points while making 15 percent of its shots. Even a 50-point second half couldn’t help make up the difference as Walla Walla Community College would take the game and the final NWAACC Championship tournament spot behind an 82-63 victory.


 
 
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By AJ MAZZOLINI
East Oregonian


PENDLETON — The Irrigon Knights can finally call themselves champions.

Not of the state, though — that battle resumes next week.

Irrigon won its first district championship in any sport when the Knights dodged a rocket on Saturday, outlasting Pilot Rock 33-32 in the championship game of the boys’ basketball Blue Mountain Conference District Tournament at the Pendleton Convention Center. The defensive battle improved the Knights to 25-0 this season and sends them into the state bracket as the No. 1 overall seed.

“This is an exciting moment, to have one of these things that you’ve never had before,” said Irrigon sophomore guard Anthony Landeros, moments before being mobbed by Irrigon supporters following the game.


 
 
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By AJ MAZZOLINI
East Oregonian


PENDLETON — For the fourth season in a row, the Pilot Rock girls are Blue Mountain Conference champions. And for the third consecutive time, the title comes at the expense of the Enterprise Outlaws.

Pilot Rock upset the BMC District Tournament’s No. 1 seed Enterprise on Saturday at the Pendleton Convention Center to complete its four-peat with a 48-39 victory.


 
 
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By AJ MAZZOLINI
East Oregonian


PENDLETON — After trailing by more than 15 points while sleepwalking through the first half, the Stanfield Tigers found themselves with the ball and down by just one with 30 seconds to play against Grant Union. With the Blue Mountain Conference’s No. 3 spot for the boys’ state basketball tournament on the line, the Tigers all of a sudden controlled the outcome.

Half a minute of game time later, though, it was still the Prospectors on top as a last-second 3-pointer bounced off the iron, securing the Prospector’s 47-46 victory. Despite the loss, the Tigers will still have a seat on the state train as the fourth and final team from the conference to move on.


 
 
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By AJ MAZZOLINI
East Oregonian


PENDLETON — Trailing by eight points at halftime, the Heppner Mustangs had a two-step plan to overcome Union on Saturday at the Blue Mountain Conference District Tournament: cut the lead in half by the end of the third, push for the finish line in the fourth.

The Mustangs got the deficit down to three in the district’s third-place game at the Pendleton Convention Center, but there was no gas left in the tank for Step 2. Union’s Keesha Sarman took over in the fourth quarter to help the Bobcats to a 51-39 victory and the third spot from the BMC for the Class 2A state playoffs.


 
 
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Jansen Edmiston guards a shot by Darian Lindsey. (Photo/EJ Harris)
By AJ MAZZOLINI
East Oregonian


PENDLETON — After blowing up the Bucks by nearly 40 points in their game in Hermiston 10 days ago, the middle match in a set of three this season, the Bulldogs knew better than to expect a similar showing on Friday in Pendleton.

But a 21-10 hole half way through the second quarter? Even that was a little surprising.

Hermiston narrowed the gap to 23-17 by halftime and drove its way to the basket for 33 second-half points in a 50-40 Columbia River Conference victory at Warberg Court to complete the sweep of its rival.

“We knew it’s their home so they’re going to be making shots that they normally don’t,” Hermiston’s Mckenzie Byrd said. “We needed to keep that in mind and keep our composure. We got a little rattled at first but I think we picked it up in the end.”


 
 
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Joel Boozer and Alex Ortiz go for a rebound. (Photo/EJ Harris)
By AJ MAZZOLINI
East Oregonian


PENDLETON — The games of the Umatilla County rivalry series between Hermiston and Pendleton have featured some of the tightest contests of either teams’ schedules, games so close a single possession could have warped the outcome.

On Friday, the Bucks finally got one to swing their way.

The Pendleton boys held off Hermiston with a reliable string of free throws and dodged a pair of Bulldog 3-point attempts in the final 10 seconds to a avoid a season sweep. The Bucks’ 55-52 victory at Warberg Court wrapped the regular season for both squads and will likely keep Pendleton’s campaign alive — at least for now.

The Bucks (11-11, 5-4 CRC), ranked 23rd by the OSAA going into the game, had to avoid falling out of the top 24 to have any shot at the postseason. The 24 teams advance to the play-in round of the Class 5A state playoffs, but may get bumped by a league champion ranked below the line.


 
 
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Tyler Berger takes down a Pendleton wrestler. (Photo/EJ Harris)
By AJ MAZZOLINI
East Oregonian


PORTLAND — A year after finishing second-runner up at the Class 5A wrestling state championships, Hermiston is looking like a program with vengeance in mind.

The 2013 Bulldogs have drilled dual opponents and trounced tournament fields on their way to their regional wrestling tournament this weekend at Portland’s Marshall High School. Along the way, the Dawgs have picked up steam and the kind of state-wide attention that has the school favored for not only a district championship — an accomplishment that’s become commonplace around Hermiston — but a state title.