PENDLETON — The 2017-18 prep basketball season officially opened for business across Oregon on Wednesday night as boys and girls teams across the state got in their first games of the season.
The Pendleton Buckaroo girls team was one of those and their season opener did not go the way they had hoped. A short-handed Buckaroo squad committed 29 turnovers and shot just 30 percent from the floor as the Bucks fell to the Baker Bulldogs 56-47 at Warberg Court.
“Can you tell it’s early?” Pendleton coach Kevin Porter joked after the game.
Pendleton (0-1) played with just nine healthy players, with one of those being freshman Natalie Neveau that was called up to the varsity squad so late that she did not even know her team’s plays. Senior all-league player Kalan McGlothan, junior forward Katie Bradt and junior guard Megan George were all out with undisclosed injuries and are all expected to be out for “a few weeks,” Porter said.
Coupling the injuries with the fact that players such as Elli Nirschl and Lauren Richards, two big varsity contributors a year ago, did not come out for the team this year meant Pendleton was forced to give big minutes to numerous players without much varsity experience on Wednesday night.
“We tried to scrap together as best we could,” Porter said. “The way we’re looking at it is we’re going to get these kids minutes and some experience so when we get down into league play it’s going to help us. When we’re healthy, we’re going to be tough but right now we’re still learning.”
Even in the midst of the inexperience on the floor, Pendleton fought hard throughout all 32 minutes of game time and kept itself in the game. Pendleton scored the first basket of the game before Baker quickly tied and took the lead and the Bulldogs (1-0) led the rest of the way. However, their lead never got to more than nine points, as Pendleton fought back to within deficits of one-to-three points on several occasions.
The Buckaroos gave the Bulldogs one final run within the final two minutes when Jaiden Lemberger sank a 3-pointer to trim the Bulldogs’ lead to 50-46 with 1:40 left, followed by one made free throw from Maureen Davies to get within 50-47 with just 30 seconds left. But that was as close as Pendleton could get. The Bucks were forced to foul on defense over the final half-minute, and the Bulldogs went 6 of 6 from the free throw line to seal the win.
Lemberger led the Buckaroos in scoring with 11 points and Davies had 10 points with six rebounds and three blocked shots. Hunter Kiele played big minutes in the post with the absence of McGlothan and Bradt and performed well with 10 points and seven rebounds — four of which were on the offensive end.
“Hunter did a great job,” Porter said. “She’ll never be out-worked, ever, that’s for sure. She gets a lot of rebounds and does a lot of stuff for us and we needed it.”
Porter was also pleased with the effort given by Rylee Gentner, who turned in solid opener with eight points and 11 rebounds in her first game back on the court after sitting out last season.
“Between (Kiele) and Rylee Gentner, they had almost 20 rebounds and those are rebounds I didn’t know I was going to have coming into this year,” Porter said, “so I’m excited about that.”
Sydney Younger scored a game-high 21 points to lead the Bulldogs, who shot 43 percent from the floor for the game and had 20 turnovers of their own.
Pendleton will now have one day of practice to try and work out some kinks before Summit comes to town for a 2:30 p.m. game on Saturday at Warberg Court.
“I told the girls it’s only the first game of the year,” Porter said. “We’re short-handed and we’re going to learn from this and we’ll be better for this.”
BHS — 14 19 8 15 — 56
PHS — 13 16 9 9 — 47
BAKER — S. Younger 21, J. Ramos 9, K. Flanagan 8, R. Gwillim 5, D. Davis 4, C. Ward 4, E. Carter 2, A. Carter 2.
PENDLETON — J. Lemberger 11, M. Davies 10, H. Kiele 10, R. Gentner 8, U. Guerrero 6, H. Porter 2.
3-pointers — BHS 2, PHS 4. Free throws — BHS 9-18, PHS 9-17. Fouls — BHS 16, PHS 15.
Contact Eric at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-966-0839. Follow him on Twitter @ByEricSinger.