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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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Francisco Nunez shoots the ball. (Photo/EJ Harris)
By AJ MAZZOLINI
East Oregonian

PENDLETON — Though the Blue Mountain Conference has three of the top four ranked boys’ teams in Class 2A basketball now at the end of regular season, one squad has done more than the others to draw the attention of the whole state to Eastern Oregon.

It’s Irrigon Knights’ world, everyone else is just living in it.

Irrigon’s undefeated dominant run has already earned the Knights (24-0, 16-0 BMC) a spot in the state tournament regardless of finish when the dust settles at the BMC District Tournament this weekend in Pendleton. In fact, eight of the ten teams competing at the Pendleton Convention Center will move on to the state rounds.

The league can thank Grant Union for that bump after three teams have been historically state eligible in the past before the Prospectors joined the BMC this school year. And with statewide No. 2 Pilot Rock and No. 4 Grant Union in the bracket on the boys’ side along with three of the top seven girls’ teams in their half, the Blue Mountain Conference is set up to not just populate the state tournament but throw its weight around.


 
 
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Irrigon's Fredy Vera scores earlier this season. (Photo/EJ Harris)
By AJ MAZZOLINI
East Oregonian


The Irrigon Knights’ winning reputation has extended far beyond the Blue Mountain Conference this season.  The boys from Irrigon have been the talk of Class 2A  basketball statewide, absolutely slicing through the competition on their way to a thus-far undefeated 22-0 record and No. 1 ranking per the OSAA.

Along the way, Irrigon has put up team total of 71 points per game to just 42 allowed. The Knights have beaten every opponent but two by double digits. But one of those teams, Pilot Rock, remains on the schedule for this weekend.

The Rockets and Knights played in a serious game-of-the-year candidate contest on Jan. 12 in Pendleton with Irrigon eking out the 68-64 victory in overtime. The squads go for Round 2 tonight in Irrigon at 7:30 p.m. with the Knights’ No. 1 seed to the district tournament and perfect record both on the line.


 
 
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By AJ MAZZOLINI
East Oregonian


The Echo Cougars enter this final weekend of Big Sky Conference boys’ basketball as comfortable as can be. The Cougars have already locked up the East’s No. 1 seed for the district tournament in Hermiston the following week.

But behind Echo, four teams are still fighting for the other two East tournament spots. The BSC District Tournament will feature the top three teams from each side of the league, but only half of those six advance to the state playoffs.