PENDLETON — In 2016, the early part of January brought a lot of time off for the Pendleton Buckaroos. A harsh winter meant the Bucks played just one game in the span of 17 days — like most teams in Eastern Oregon — which meant a lot of practice time in the gym.
This year, the month of January has brought the Buckaroos plenty of downtime again, only now it’s welcomed by the team.
The way the schedule was constructed, Pendleton plays just three non-league games in the span of the first 17 days of the month, which has given the Bucks a lot of needed practice time in the gym and time to rest up and heal as they prepare to go after the league title for the fourth consecutive year.
And the downtime seems to be paying off. After finishing off December with three straight losses, the Buckaroos have started January with three straight wins following Tuesday’s 63-46 victory over the La Grande Tigers at Warberg Court.
“I think we’re fortunate to have the schedule we do,” Pendldeton head coach Kyle Tedder said of his rested squad. “When you have days off you utilize them well and that’s the goal. Trying to get guys healthy, a lot of guys and coaches have been sick and banged up, so it’s a good opportunity for us to get back on track, get a lot of shots up and focus on some areas we need to improve on.”
The Buckaroos (7-6) used their fresh legs to take the advantage on the Tigers (8-6) early and led 20-7 after the first eight minutes. Junior Tyler Newsom, who has emerged as Pendleton’s next star, was unstoppable to start as he scored all but six of his team’s points in the first quarter and had 21 of the team’s 31 points in the first half, which was not surprising to his coach.
“I think Tyler’s going to impose his will when he wants to, because he’s a special offensive player,” Tedder said.
At halftime with Pendleton up 31-26, only three Buckaroos had etched points into the scorebook — including Newsom, Dakota Sams (6 points) and Richard Scott (4 points) — as Pendleton’s secondary scorers and bench players struggled to hit shots.
For the game, those three dominated the stat sheet as Newsom finished with a game-high 25 points with 13 rebounds, Sams added 14 points and eight rebounds and Scott finished with 12 points and five boards. The remaining eight Buckaroos that saw the floor combined for just 12 points.
Afterwards, Tedder said he wasn’t concerned about the unbalanced scoring effort from the team. He was more concerned about the high number of turnovers, which has become a trend for the Buckaroos.
“I think the reason we have our ups and downs is the turnover margin,” he said. “We had 23 turnovers in the game, back-to-back game with 20-plus (turnovers) is something we have to fix. Take 10 of those away, it adds 10 possessions and it’s a totally different game.”
La Grande kept the game close to start the third quarter until the Buckaroos’ stingy defense and activity in the paint simply wore them down. The Buckaroos quickly took the lead from six to 15 points with 2:07 left in the third quarter, and then led by as much as 20 points at 57-37 early in the fourth quarter.
“I thought we controlled our tempo and played even-keeled for 32 minutes,” Tedder said. “We turned it on in the second half and had a great third quarter and didn’t let much get to us.”
Pendleton proved it was the better team, and dominated La Grande in most statistical categories. The Buckaroos out-rebounded the Tigers 44-24, scored 32 points in the paint to the Tigers’ 22, and out-shot the Tigers at the free throw line (Buckaroos 13-of-16, Tigers 6-of-19) and out-shot the Tigers by nearly 10 percent overall.
It was the type of performance that Tedder was happy to see out of his group as they now prepare for one final non-league game before league play starts up on Jan. 18.
“Guys are battling, trying to get better every day and now we have another nice week off to address some things and get better and get healthy to be feeling good going into league next week,” Tedder said. “I think the message is clear, and the guys are ready to work, we just have to put in the work and be ready.”
LHS 7 19 10 10 — 46
PHS 20 11 22 10 — 63
LA GRANDE — N. Tsiatos 17, G. Blackman 9, N. Chamberlain 9, K. Chandler 5, C. Reed 5, B. Bell 1, I. Chamberlain, H. Youngblood.
PENDLETON — T. Newsom 25, D. Sams 14, R. Scott 12, R. Russell 5, C. Sandford 3, D. Jackson 2, K. Broncheau 2, W. Camp, L. Evans, G. Lee, M. Gallegos.
3-pointers — LHS 6, PHS 6. Free throws — LHS 6-19, PHS 13-16. Fouls — LHS 12, PHS 18.
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