PENDLETON — In three seasons under head coach Aaron Schmidt, the Pendleton girls’ basketball team has put up a few gems. The examples of excellence have been outweighed, though, during a modest 26-37 record for the Bucks.
But in all those games, Pendleton has never performed the way it did Friday against Columbia River Conference hopeful-power The Dalles Wahtonka. The Bucks dazzled the Eagle Indians with defense in a suffocating 51-28 victory, even holding The Dalles Wahtonka scoreless for the first quarter at Warberg Court in Pendleton.
The Bucks (8-7, 2-0 CRC) opened the game like angry bees bursting from a jostled hive. The Dalles Wahtonka (11-4, 1-1 CRC) committed six turnovers in its first eight possessions. Yet Pendleton wasn’t quick to capitalize. The Bucks led just 4-0 at that point, turning the scoreboard with a pair of Lainey Corbett free throws and another Corbett basket.
Still, the four-point lead was already looming like an Everest for the Eagle Indians. No shots would drop and by the end of the quarter, Pendleton had run its cushion to eight points. The Eagles Indians had missed all six of their field goals and all four of their free throws to drag into the first-quarter mark covered with plenty of welts.
After Pendleton guard Ellie Richards sunk a long 2-point shot in the final seconds of the quarter, the Lady Bucks strutted over to the home bench. The mile-wide smiles on the Pendleton faces made the slumped bodies on The Dalles Wahtonka’s bench that much more discernable.
“It was a great feeling, but obviously that was still really early in the game,” Corbett said of the brief huddle around the water cooler between periods. “We knew it was nowhere close to over; we knew we had to keep playing with the same intensity, the same aggressiveness that we had earlier.”
Frustrated with the first quarter’s squandered chances, the Eagle Indians were quick to try and regain some ground. Junior guard Emily Bailey sunk a pair of shots in the first minute of the second to cut the deficit in the half.
“We didn’t really make much adjustments because as a team, we understand how to play against presses and so forth,” The Dalles Wahtonka coach Dan Telles said. “We just didn’t execute.”
After a nine-turnover quarter by The Dalles Wahtonka, the OSAA’s No. 6-ranked Class 5A team cleaned up its ball handling in the second quarter. But the Bucks were still turned up to a different speed, taking their opportunities to lunge for loose balls and, in turn, the basket.
Corbett inflicted most of her damage in those first two quarters, scoring eight of her 14 points before the half to go with six rebounds, four assists and four steals. She would add just one more assist to that line after intermission.
Pendleton led 25-11 at the half and 41-20 after three quarters. The Dalles Wahtonka, a team that scored better than 46 points per game while winning 11 of its first 14 contests, finished nearly 20 pointers below that.
And by the time Bailey fouled out, leaving with a team-high eight points that had included the first six for the Eagle Indians, any The Dalles Wahtonka comeback was off the table. She picked up her fifth with 5:30 left and her team down more than 20 points still.
“Trust me, we had a sigh of relief,” said the Pendleton coach, who had four girls playing with their own foul trouble in the four quarter. “Bailey is probably the best athlete in our league and a very good player. When she got three fouls, when she fouled out, it was relief because its tough to handle her.”
Bailey also led her team with eight rebounds and five steals in the loss.
Behind Corbett for Pendleton, Rayne Spencer and Richards also broke the double-digit point mark with 12 and 10, respectively. Reeghan Lehnert added five points, four rebounds, four assists and four steals while — along with Corbett — pacing the Pendleton D’.
Friday’s victory means the Bucks are the lone undefeated team in conference play with just two games down. Pendleton, which jumped two spots in the RPI rankings with the win to No. 16, will host Hood River Valley on Tuesday in its next action.
The Bucks beat the Eagles, but just by four, when the teams met in Hood River to open CRC play earlier this week. The Buckeroos waltzing into this matchup have a little more swagger on their side, though.
“I think we proved to ourselves something. We all believed in each other, but we actually did it,” Lehnert said of Friday’s blowout, its degree of difficulty just settling in.
Contact AJ Mazzolini at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-966-0839.