PENDLETON — At halftime of Pendleton’s game against The Dalles on Tuesday night, the Buckaroos gathered in the locker room to discuss their game plan for the second half.
Pendleton held a 24-13 lead at the break, but wasn’t exactly playing the type of game it wanted.
The Dalles were doing its best on offense and defense to slow the pace of the game down to keep the Riverhawks in the game, and it was working.
So, the Buckaroos devised a plan to come out of the break with an aggressive full-court defensive press to spark the pace and the team, and it proved to be a winning plan.
The Buckaroos forced five turnovers in the first three-plus minutes of the second half which led to 15 quick points, propelling the team to an eventual 60-30 victory over the Riverhawks at Warberg Court.
“I told them we had to clamp down defensively and then maybe the defense will trigger some offense, and that’s exactly what happened,” Pendleton head coach Kevin Porter said afterward.
Senior guard Jaiden Lemberger was the beneficiary of most of those quick turnovers as she scored five straight fastbreak baskets to begin the third quarter for the Bucks (14-6 overall, 5-0 Columbia River Conference), helping her to a game-high 24 points. Pendleton’s best ball-handler and shooter, Lemberger scored only nine of her points outside the paint and scored 16 in the second half.
“We’re having a lot of fun,” Lemberger said. “Our communication has gotten a lot better from the beginning of the year ... we just kind of work well together and it just started flowing as the game was progressing. We’ve always had trouble coming out of halftime, but this time we hit our goal and started winning the third and fourth.”
As a whole, Pendleton’s defense was outstanding from start to finish. The Riverhawks (6-13, 0-5) shot a mere 17 percent (10 for 59) from the floor as a Pendleton defender affected just about every one of the 59 attempts, and turned the ball over 24 times. The Dalles scored the first points of the game, but then missed 18 straight shot attempts thanks to the Buckaroos’ stingy defense.
As the defense worked hard, the offense struggled to get going. With 3:15 left in the second quarter, the Riverhawks’ Paulina Flinn nailed a mid-range jumper to cut the Pendleton lead to 17-13. But that was as close as the Buckaroos would let the Riverhawks get.
Over the next 14-plus minutes of game time, Pendleton went on a 33-8 run to open up a 53-21 lead. That allowed Porter to rest his starting five for the final six-plus minutes of the game, continuing to get valuable game experience for his reserves. Porter liked what he saw from the second unit, which continues to show positive development as the season has gone along, and contributed 13 points. Freshman Josie Wilson was the first player off the bench in both halves and played solid defense and was just one player that Porter singled out from Tuesday.
“When we started out the year, the only returning varsity player on the bench was Katie Bradt and she spent till after Christmas injured,” Porter said. “I didn’t expect to have a freshman (Wilson) come in and get significant minutes, but she’s earned it. And someone like Samantha Spriet doesn’t maybe score as many points but she’s big on defense, with Hunter Kiele, who is a workhorse. “So now, I feel I can go nine deep and tonight we went 12 deep.”
Even with Lemberger’s second-half burst and the bench’s performance, the most impressive Buckaroo on the court still was Kalan McGlothan. The senior added another double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds, using her physicality to perfectly position herself for rebounds and fighting through contact for baskets.
Now, Pendleton has three days to fine-tune things before Friday’s rematch with Hermiston, this time on the Buckaroos’ home turf. Porter says the team didn’t even talk about the Bulldogs until Tuesday’s postgame talk in the locker room, but he knows they’ll be ready for their rival.
“This is a great group,” he said. “They don’t want to lose and they’re starting to understand that they can be pretty good and that’s making them dangerous right now.”
TDS 5 8 3 14 — 30
PHS 11 13 17 19 — 60
THE DALLES — P. Finn 10, L. Belanger 5, B. LeBreton 4, J. Thomasian 4, J. Miller 3, E. Salvation 1.
PENDLETON — J. Lemberger 24, K. McGlothan 16, U. Guerrero 5, N. Nevue 4, M. Davies 3, H. Kiele 2, R. Gentner 2, H. Porter 2, S. Spriet 1, K. Bradt 1, J. Wilson, C. Cooley.
3-pointers — TDS 2, PHS 2. Free throws — TDS 8-13, PHS 18-31. Fouls — TDS 19, PHS 15.
Columbia River Conference Standings
Tm Lg Ovr
Pendleton 5-0 14-6
Hermiston 4-1 8-12
Hood River 1-4 9-10
The Dalles 0-5 6-13
Contact Eric at email@example.com or 541-966-0839. Follow him on Twitter @ByEricSinger.