PENDLETON — Pendleton coach Aaron Schmidt didn’t feel like his girls were lacking under the hoop Wednesday. They boxed out, they hustled, they snagged a few rebounds.
But the size and physicality of the La Grande Tigers left their outstretched hands short of the falling basketballs as the Tigers turned away the Buckaroos 56-48 on the strength of a 19-rebound advantage.
Twenty two offensive rebounds led to easy putback buckets from directly below the basket. Each time Pendleton (6-7), which lost its lead on the first possession of the second half and trailed every second forward after taking a 25-23 into intermission, would get within striking distance, the Tigers (7-3) would pull back ahead behind their rebounders.
“La Grande’s a good hustling team, I mean they out-worked us,” Schmidt said. “We knew they were physical and they were.”
Schmidt knew a little about the Tigers considering the teams met in La Grande on Nov. 29 to open the season, a game the home squad won 68-59.
That game was a little more hectic, La Grande coach Doug Girdner said. His girls have learned to control their tempo better since November, and slowed it down more this time around with Pendleton.
“The first game was really ugly, scrappy, a lot of fouls,” Girdner said. “We’ve changed what we do a little bit, we’re not pushing the ball quite as much because we’re not as fast as we thought we were.”
Girdner added La Grande has put more emphasis on defense. The Tigers forced 24 turnovers, but Pendleton returned the favor with 27 forced turnovers.
The Bucks got beat on the boards because of La Grande’s stature, but that affected Pendleton on more than just the rebounding front. The Bucks struggled to get inside to the hoop and didn’t draw many shooting fouls. The Tigers attempted 30 free throws to Pendleton’s five.
Freshman Ellie Richards led the Bucks with 18 points off the bench and Lainey Corbett backed her up with 15 points. No other Buck had more than five, though.
Richards’ emergence is a continuing bright spot in the early season for Pendleton, Schmidt said.
“We’re not a great shooting team so we need to attack the basket, but Ellie is a great shooter. That’s something else we’ll have looking forward this year,” he said.
The Bucks wrap up the non-conference season with Baker on the road next Tuesday. Pendleton goes to Hood River Valley the following week to open Columbia River Conference games.
Contact AJ Mazzolini at firstname.lastname@example.org or (541) 966-0839.