PENDLETON — What one team lacked Tuesday at Pendleton’s Warberg Court, the other had in stockpiles.
The Buckaroo girls’ basketball team was hardly hampered by point guard Lainey Corbett’s quick fouls, pounding a Hood River Valley squad that is still searching for a true ball handler this late in the season.
Pendleton (9-7, 3-0 CRC) remains atop the Columbia River Conference with the league victory, the lone undefeated among the CRC’s four schools. In a mirrored dichotomy, the Eagles (7-9, 0-3 CRC) are still on the hunt for their first league win.
The contest started just like Pendleton’s previous one had ended — that being a blowout over The Dalles Wahtonka on Friday. The Bucks scattered the floor, setting fires around the Eagle dribblers and snatching up turnovers. The scoreboard read 10-0 after only three minutes of play.
But before the end of the quarter, Pendleton’s recent spark, Corbett, was whistled for her second foul. Less than two minutes into the second, she was called for charging for No. 3. With Pendleton up just 14-11 following a run by Hood River Valley, the senior went to the bench.
Instead of panicking, Pendleton turned to sophomore Darian Lindsey, who started the season as the team’s No. 1 at the position. Corbett — who Lindsey called a better ball handler under pressure — took over the job a few games into the season after having learned the system into which she’d transferred.
And what a relief that experience was, Lindsey said.
“It wasn’t as nerve-racking as if it was my first time,” she said of running the point.
The Eagles wouldn’t score again in the half. Hood River Valley went gasping for breath into the intermission after Pendleton’s Rayne Spencer sunk one of her four 3-pointers in the second quarter’s final seconds to run the score to 29-11.
“We’ve got girls that can handle it without Lainey on the floor, though obviously we want her on the floor,” Pendleton coach Aaron Schmidt said. “We’re OK if she’s not there, which is a positive sign for our group. ... Maybe it was good for us to play without her.”
Corbett picked up a fourth foul in the third minute of the third quarter, meaning the point position was Lindsey’s for much of the game. She’d finish with a team-high 26 minutes while Corbett saw time in only 18.
But both made their impacts. Corbett would finish with eight points, half on free throws. Lindsey tossed out a game-high four assists to go with eight steals, part of an 18-steal barrage that the Bucks inflicted.
Spencer led all players with 15 points and Amanda Fowler scored 11 points off the bench to help the Bucks shoot a hair under 40 percent as a unit.
No Eagle reached double figures in points. Jestena Mattson had eight and five rebounds off the bench.
Many of Hood River Valley’s 28 turnovers could be directly credited to Pendleton’s tenacity — but not all. A handful came on passes that were more destined for the nachos in the front row than any open teammate. Or lost dribbles that sent balls rolling toward the eager Pendleton defenders.
“We knew we were in for a tough league this year and we’re a little bit guard-shy,” Eagles coach Tom Ames said, speaking of his team’s issues with the press-heavy defenses seen in Pendleton and Hermiston his last two games. “It’s tough. Ball handling has been an issue from the get-go. That’s where it all falls apart.”
The Eagles exhibited the same weaknesses against the Bulldogs last Friday in a 71-17 drubbing in Hermiston. That was a score the Bucks were very much aware of heading into their meeting with Hood River Valley on Tuesday, and a set of numbers that’s hard to shake while on a collision course with Hermiston this week.
The Bucks will host the Bulldogs at Warberg Court on Friday at 5:15 p.m., a game that features a pair of peaking CRC foes. Pendleton has won six of seven following its victory over the Eagles. Hermiston, which throttled The Dalles Wahtonka 76-24 on Tuesday, has won three of four. The last two came by an average of 53-points.
Hermiston has been up and down this season, though is definitely on the upswing currently, Schmidt said. It all should make for a memorable rivalry contest this go-around.
“I think that they’re beatable. I think our girls think they can play with them and our goal is to win the game,” he said. “We’re not going to go in scared. We know what to expect and I think our girls are playing with confidence right now.”
Contact AJ Mazzolini at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-966-0839.