It took some fighting, but the Irrigon girls withstood Umatilla’s pressure to send them packing 44-39 in an Eastern Oregon League matchup on Thursday night.

The Knights sprinted out to a 15-2 lead at the end of the first quarter, but the Vikings came back to challenge them moving forward. Irrigon narrowly escaped with the win.

The last time the two teams clashed, Irrigon won by 12 points.

“Umatilla has improved so much,” said Knights coach Mike Royer. “They’re starting to play with confidence, and they’re learning how to win.”

Freshman JaLay Burns ignited the Knights’ mighty first quarter run, knocking down eight points including two 3-pointers.

But despite the strong start, the Knights stumbled to let Umatilla top them 11-4 in the second quarter. Senior Alexandra Ford took care of seven of those points. The Knights were out front 19-13 at halftime.

“I think the first quarter got to our heads,” said Burns, a 5-foot-2 point guard. “We were getting tired towards halftime. I remember looking at the scoreboard and thinking, ‘Oh no, this is close.’ I knew we had to pick things up.”

Burns drove the Knights’ victory with 15 points for the night. After a nine-point Umatilla run in the third quarter that brought the Vikings within five points of taking over, Burns knocked down another trey to keep Irrigon alive, 32-24.

“I expect a lot out of JaLay,” Royer said. “She’s a freshman, but she’s played more basketball than anyone on the team. She makes some freshman mistakes, but she’s learning to be a leader. She can do good things on both ends of the court.”

Umatilla sophomore Devin Monreal grabbed an Irrigon ball to pull within four points of the lead with just 0:34 left in the final quarter. But Irrigon seniors Ana Zacarias and Myka Davis combined for three at the line to keep the game out of reach in the final seconds.

Sophomore Alyssa Luna posted a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds for the Knights.

“This feels pretty good,” Luna said of the win. “We worked hard even when they were catching up on us. The coach told us at halftime, ‘You guys have to dig,’ and we did. Umatilla is always a challenge.”

Taylor Durfey posted 14 points for the Vikings (2-17, 0-5 EOL), and Ford ended with 12. They’ll host Riverside on Friday. Meanwhile, Irrigon (12-8, 3-4 EOL) travels to Burns.

Boys hoops

On paper, Umatilla might have thought they were in for an easier win.

On Thursday night’s Eastern Oregon League contest, the Umatilla Vikings were welcomed by the lower ranked Irrigon Knights, but were forced to rally in the third quarter to claim the 69-45 win.

The two teams were tied at 2-2 early on before Irrigon took an 8-2 lead with 4:33 left in the first quarter. Four straight points from Vikings junior Andrew Earl and senior Christian DeLoera brought them within two points from the lead. But Irrigon senior Danny Telles hit a 3-pointer from half court to keep the Knights ahead 17-12.

DeLoera posted seven more points in the second quarter to help Umatilla catch up 30-24 at the half. The Vikings came out of the locker room renewed to start their comeback, outscoring Irrigon 22-3.

“We stepped up and decided to play some ball,” said Umatilla coach Scott Bow. “We let them get some easy shots in the first half, but we put them in some tough positions in the second.”

Umatilla claimed the fourth quarter 23-12 to seal the win. DeLoera led the way for the Vikings (16-3, 4-1 EOL) with 25 points, and Earl followed with 16.

“It was a big win for us,” Bow said. “They did a fantastic job of picking up the energy and intensity in that third quarter. When it’s late in the game like that, you have to start playing smart.”

Senior Leonel Carillo had 15 points for the Vikings (8-12, 2-5 EOL), and Telles and senior Lino Covarrubia each chipped in 13.

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