PENDLETON — As the Hood River Valley Eagles hopped on the bus for the two-plus hour drive to Pendleton on Friday evening, they did so as the underdog yet again.
For the season, the Eagles came to Warberg Court with a 5-13 overall record, winners of just one game in their last 12. And against the Buckaroos, the Eagles came in losers of nine straight dating back to January of 2015. However, the Eagles pulled off the unlikely upset to snap their skid, while halting a streak for the Buckaroos as well.
Hood River erased a 11-point second half deficit to stun the Buckaroos 62-58 at Warberg Court, ending Pendleton’s 15-game win streak inside the Columbia River Conference. The Eagles (6-13 overall, 1-3 CRC) outscored the Buckaroos 28-12 in the fourth quarter, with perhaps the biggest difference being from the free throw line. The Eagles were 11 for 15 in the fourth quarter and 19 for 27 for the game, while the Buckaroos (11-8, 3-1) had their worst night of the season going 6 for 16 in the fourth quarter and 7 for 23 for the game.
Leaving 16 points on the board in missed free throws while losing a game by four points was one of a few tough pills to swallow for the Buckaroos and head coach Kyle Tedder.
Pendleton had a chance to tie or take the lead with 4.4 seconds left, down 59-58 as Tyler Newsom stepped to the free throw line for two shots, but the junior missed both to keep the Eagles in front.
“We practice every day. It’s something we practice every single day is pressure free throws,” Tedder said, “and at the end of the day we just have to make free throws. We should’ve shot 20 more free throws, I think, but we don’t seem to get calls in our gym and that’s what it’s been like for three years here and that’s the way it’s going to continue to be so our guys have to play even harder.”
Tedder was visibly frustrated on the Buckaroos bench for most of the second half, primarily with the officiating. The three-man officiating crew seemed to let the Eagles pester the Buckaroos with excessive contact on defense, especially with the on-ball defenders, and often let it go, while sometimes having quick whistles the other way for the Buckaroos. The fouls were even at 17 apiece at the end of the game, but as Tedder mentioned, the Eagles could have very well had a few more added to their total.
“Our boys played hard and deserved to win that one,” Tedder said. “At the end of the day, we need to make free throws, but for them to take one from us at the end right there is unreal. I thought there was such a thing as home court advantage but apparently you don’t get that at Pendleton.”
The final straw for Tedder came immediately after Newsom’s second missed free throw at the end of the game. Ryan Russell fought for an offensive rebound off the miss, and appeared to keep possession away from an aggressive Hood River defender until one of the officials quickly called a held ball. It took an offensive possession and scoring chance away from Pendleton with the possession arrow pointing in the Eagles’ direction, and a frustrated Tedder drew his second technical foul of the game, resulting in Hood River free throws that helped seal their win.
Hood River’s JJ Mears scored a game-high 23 points — 18 of which came in the second half — including three crucial 3-pointers and a solid 12 for 14 performance from the free throw line. Three more Eagles reached double digits with 10 points apiece and contributed to the teams’ 18 second-chance points.
Newsom led Pendleton with 19 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists, but had six turnovers. Dakota Sams added 14 points behind four made 3-pointers and Richard Scott added nine points.
Pendleton’s offense was a roller-coaster in the first half, with bursts of points here and there followed by long stretches of scoring droughts. The Buckaroos held a close 32-26 lead at halftime and then found a rhythm midway through the third quarter.
The Bucks shot 43 percent for the quarter and had just one turnover, and got the lead into double digits for the first time with 1:30 left in the third on a steal and score by Shaw Jerome.
The Bucks led by as much as 13 points at 46-33 with one minute left in the third and were up 12 as the fourth quarter began. But in the fourth quarter, the offense dried up as they shot 3 for 10 and turned the ball over seven times. Meanwhile the Eagles caught fire, shooting 7 for 9 from the quarter, and opened the fourth on a 20-5 run to take a 54-53 lead on a deep 3-pointer from Mears — the Eagles’ first lead since 26-25 with 3:50 left in the second — and never looked back as they flew to the victory.
HRV 14 12 8 28 — 62
PHS 14 18 14 12 — 58
HOOD RIVER — J. Mears 23, J. Tactay 10, D. Kurahara 10, E. Siekkinen 10, P. Slatt 8, T. Hough 1.
PENDLETON — T. Newsom 19, D. Sams 14, R. Scott 9, R. Russell 7, S. Jerome 4, W. Camp 3, D. Jackson 2.
3-pointers — HRV 5, PHS 7. Free throws — HRV 19-27, PHS 7-23. Fouls — HRV 17, PHS 17.
Contact Eric at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-966-0839. Follow him on Twitter @ByEricSinger.