PENDLETON — A new league for Grant Union meant new league opponents when the Prospectors dropped from Class 3A to 2A this school year. It’s been a basketball season of adjustments for the Grant Union girls as they attempt to figure out new foes.
But the same is true for the rest of the Blue Mountain Conference when they face the new team.
“We didn’t really know anything about them in the beginning. We’d never watched them, never played them,” Pilot Rock post Britteny Taylor said.
Without junior Taylor Smith running the game on the court, the Prospectors (2-5, 2-2 BMC) looked lost and unpredictable. Drawing up a plan for an opponent like that is tricky, Pilot Rock coach Butch Wilson said, so he and his girls were forced to try adjusting on the fly.
Pilot Rock (7-2, 2-2 BMC) set its sights on the 3-point arc to start the game. The Rockets knocked down five 3-pointers in the first half, led by a pair each from Caitlin Zyph and Jessie Doherty. At halftime, the Rockets were shooting 41 percent from long range, but just 11 percent from on 2-point shots.
After intermission, as the Pros were starting to fan to the outside, the Rockets threw the curve. Zyph, who had been hot from distance, became a distributor. She scored no points in the half after her nine-point first, but started passing the ball inside.
As a team, Pilot Rock attempted only one 3-pointer in the final two quarters. Instead, Taylor wound up with a game high 13 points to go with her nine rebounds thanks to her post work, narrowly missing a third straight double-double.
“We didn’t think they could handle us posting up,” coach Wilson said. “Our 3s will always be there so we wanted to go inside out, play a little more disciplined.”
The Rockets controlled the flow of the game by holding onto the ball. Their 11 turnovers were less than half of Grant Union’s total.
A lot of the Prospectors’ issues turning the ball over could be traced back to the lack of a strong point guard Saturday, coach Raime Lequerica said. Her girls were playing timid, staying put when the Rockets defense went in for traps.
“Offensively, nobody wants to shoot the ball and nobody wants to step up,” she said. “They want to pass two feet from each other. I’m looking for someone who will be a leader on the offense, but it’s just not happening.”
Sarah Wright led the Pros with eight points and added eight rebounds. Mikaela Donahue grabbed nine more as the Pros out-rebounded Pilot Rock 44-35.
Ginni Harrison had 10 rebounds to lead all players for Pilot Rock and Doherty also had seven boards.
The win comes right before a break from league play for Pilot Rock as the team heads to La Grande next week for three days of the La Grande Optimist Christmas Classic. Wallowa is the first opponent there on Thursday, Dec. 27, at 11 a.m.
Wilson said Saturday’s win could help the Rockets get out of a little funk they’ve been in. The girls had previously lost two of three since starting BMC games, the only win coming in a tightly contested battle with Heppner. The two losses came by a combined eight points, including one defeat in overtime to Union.
The Rockets didn’t play as well as they should have against Grant Union, Wilson said, but hopefully it’s a step forward.
“We have the talent, it’s just sometimes the effort’s not there,” he said. “I didn’t feel like we came into this weekend prepared at all. Between players being sick and just lackadaisical practice, I wasn’t confident at all this week.
“I’ve got to hand it to the girls, all of them are either sick or injured and they came with all their energy today and that was great,” he continued.
Contact AJ Mazzolini at firstname.lastname@example.org or (541) 966-0839.