The Mustang improved to 2-0 in Blue Mountain league play after defeating Stanfield on the road 56-37 on Saturday.

“It’s always nice to get a league win, especially on someone else’s home floor,” said Heppner coach Jeremy Rosenbalm. “Our goal was to go into Christmas break 2-0 in the league.”

Heppner sprinted out to a 9-0 lead in the first quarter and kept the Tigers away from the net for more than 4 minutes until Stanfield juniors Mario Sanchez and Rene Sanchez combined for four straight points. Senior Elias Esquivel scored another basket with 1:30 left in the quarter, but Heppner sank two more of their own for a 14-6 lead at the buzzer.

Sanchez hit a 3-pointer to open the second quarter as the Tigers steadily chipped away at the deficit. When Stanfield was down 20-17, junior Rafael Orozco missed a 3-pointer that could have tied it up. The Mustangs got five straight points for a 25-20 halftime lead.

Esquivel kept the Tigers alive with a 3-pointer with 4:40 left to play in the third, tying the game at 30-30. But Heppner senior Hunter Nichols scored two treys, two at the line, and two from the field to broaden their lead.

“We got in our groove in the second half,” said Nichols, a 5-foot-8 point guard. “We moved and shot the ball well, and played better on both sides.”

Esquivel and Sanchez had a six-point streak early in the fourth quarter, but Heppner recorded 10 more points to secure their league win.

“This was the best second half we’ve had all season,” Rosenbalm said. “We locked down our defense and knocked down some big shots.”

Senior Tyler Carter led the Mustangs with 15 points, and Nichols had 14. Esquivel sunk 17 for the Tigers.

Heppner (2-0, 7-5) will compete in the Irrigon Invite on Thursday, Dec. 27. Stanfield (1-1, 4-8) will host Weston-McEwen on Friday, Jan. 4.

Girls

The Heppner girls fought through a first quarter deficit to take home their first league victory of the season, downing Stanfield 55-38 for a Saturday road win.

“This was the first complete game that we played as a team,” said Mustangs coach Robert Wilson. “Everyone played hard. Our rebounding was especially good today — that’s always been an area of opportunity for us.”

Tigers junior Kendra Hart helped Stanfield out to an 8-1 lead in under 5 minutes to force a Heppner timeout.

The Mustangs came out of the break to score 14 points over Stanfield’s six, including a 3-pointer from senior Jacee Currin at the buzzer to put Heppner ahead for good, 15-13.

Heppner kept pushing and outscored Stanfield 12-5 in the second quarter for a 27-18 halftime lead.

Sophomore Sydney Wilson hit a 3-pointer at 4:03 in the third to give the Mustangs a 10-point lead. Sophomore Madison Ashbeck grabbed an offensive rebound to score with 0:38 remaining in the quarter, and turned the ball around to score again with just 0:05 left. Stanfield junior Nyah Tejada hit a 3 at the buzzer to keep Stanfield’s deficit to 10 points, 39-29.

Wilson scored another 3-pointer, two more field goals, and shot 2-2 at the line to keep Heppner ahead down the stretch.

“Sydney is a gym rat. She loves basketball,” coach Wilson said. “She has a great understanding of the game.”

Wilson posted 18 points for Heppner (1-1, 7-5). Hart had 14 for Stanfield (1-1, 6-6).

“We knew Stanfield would be a challenge,” said Wilson, a point guard. “But we got used to ‘em. It feels great to have that confidence after our first league win. We know that we can keep pushing ourselves even further.”

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