The Buckaroos opened Columbia River Conference play looking like potential champions with an explosion of made shots. The flurry only lasted two quarters, though, and the Pendleton girls wound up on the losing end of a 46-37 contest with The Dalles Wahtonka to open league play on Friday.
The Bucks (4-7, 0-1 CRC) shot an NBA-worthy 12-23 in the first half to build a 29-26 lead. After a quick sit-down at halftime, things looked different. The once-easy shots disappeared as the ball avoided the bottom of the basket to the tune of two made field goals in the second half.
Pendleton shot 2-23 in the second 16 minutes of play.
“I don’t know really what changed,” junior guard Brittany Gregerson said. “I don’t know, we just started taking some bad shots. But we also were taking some good shots.”
None of the Bucks shot particularly well, save senior Courtney Schumacher-Sweek. She led the team with 12 points, but was hottest in the first half when she made all but one of her field goals.
The Dalles Wahtonka (8-4, 1-0 CRC) trailed at halftime but kept the game close with offensive rebounds. The trend continued in the second half as the Eagle Indians finished the game with 23 boards on the offensive end, led by point guard Emily Bailey who had 13 total, six offensively.
Pendleton had a hard time blocking out the sizeable players of The Dalles Wahtonka, junior Lady Buck Rayne Spencer said. She did everything she could, gathering nine rebounds, but felt overmatched next to several girls hovering around 6-foot on the opposite side.
“When they’re getting second shots, we just need to realize that and get in better position to block them out and keep them to that one shot,” she said.
Until the fourth quarter — a frame in which the Bucks accounted for one point on a Gabby Heehn free throw with a minute and change to play — the score remained tight. That first three quarters of ball is the kind of scrum that coach Aaron Schmidt said he’s expecting in every CRC game this winter. Each team has the kind of strengths that can pull a game in its favor and Friday night’s action is just a sample of the kind of games Pendleton will experience over the next month and a half.
“It’s going to be a fight every night,” Schmidt said. “All the teams in the league have gotten better ... We’ve got to make sure we come to compete every night, but I still think we can compete with anybody in this league.”
A bright spot for Pendleton on the night was the continuing emergence of freshman Darien Lindsey. A promotion from the JV team recently, she saw a half’s worth of minutes Friday and showed her playmaking ability with a tricky steal on an inbound pass late in the game. Schmidt said he’d like her to get even more minutes because she can make up for her inexperienced mistakes with energy.
“Darien is just too fast not to have on the floor,” the coach said.
The Bucks’ next conference match-up comes at Hood River Valley on Tuesday night at 7 p.m.