PENDLETON — The Lady Timberwolves of Blue Mountain Community College were undersized and for most of the first half against Big Bend, also looked underwhelming.
That all changed in the final eight minutes before the half when a bolt of lighting struck the BMCC team and they turned a 24-17 deficit into a 41-29 lead at the break. Big Bend (13-4, 3-1 NWAACC-E) tried to close the gap but the climb back up the scoreboard was as slippery as the roads of Eastern Oregon and the T-Wolves (10-5, 2-2 NWAACC-E) held off the visitors for a final score of 82-67 in an NWAACC East Region game Friday.
“We’ve been working on not fluctuating in games because sometimes we only play one half,” said guard Chanel Cambronero, who finished with 19 points including four 3-pointers. “We were consistent (Friday).”
For the first six minutes of the game, though, Blue Mountain was consistently letting Alli Nielsen of the Vikings get to the rim. Nielsen scored her team’s first 12 points. The early domination by Nielsen left Blue Mountain scrambling for an answer.
“I was thinking ‘How are we going to stop this girl?’ ” Blue Mountain coach Christy Martin said. “We went with a really small lineup today and it probably hurt us a little bit. But we had to do something different if we wanted to guard the dribble-drive ... I think that might have thrown us off a little bit, having to switch lineups.”
Blue Mountain’s Zoe Weaver started her first game of the year after being ineligible for all of the non-league season and Big Bend took advantage of the home team’s new look that the Timberwolves were still trying to break in. But once they started clicking, what was once a near guarantee under the basket was no longer working, Nielsen said.
“We weren’t going hard enough, I have to go hard all the time and we didn’t,” said the 6-foot forward, who slowed down after the initial charge but still finished with 21 points.
After the T-Wolves leapt ahead, they never relinquished the lead. Strong defense made up for a lack of size in battling at the boards. Blue Mountain accrued 21 steals as a team, led by Cambronero with eight.
Blue Mountain wouldn’t have won the game without those forced turnovers to offset Big Bend’s rebounding numbers, coach Martin said. Big Bend’s 32 offensive rebounds aided them in an 80-shot assault on the rim.
“That was torture,” Martin said with a groan. “We got pretty lucky to come away with this one.”
The Timberwolves entered the contest on a two-game league losing streak and a win over the first-place team in their division in Big Bend was a signature victory on the season, said Megan McIntyre, BMCC’s lone player sizeable enough to combat Big Bend’s multiple 6-footers. The team gets to enjoy this one a while longer because today’s home match with Spokane was canceled due to weather. The team plays next at Yakima Valley on Jan. 27.