When things were tense, senior Tyler Newsom dug Pendleton out of an offensive rut to drive them to a home win over La Grande on Tuesday.
The Bucks turned away the Tigers 71-57 in their last nonleague contest before starting the Intermountain Conference this Friday.
“We played very poorly on the defensive end the whole game,” said Newsom, who led the Bucks with 28 points. “Our offense basically won the game for us.”
Pendleton stumbled through the first quarter, letting the Tigers tie them four times, and giving up the lead once with just 0:10 left on the clock. It wasn’t until junior guard Kason Broncheau scored one point at the line and a basket at the buzzer that the Bucks were able to pull ahead again.
The Bucks rallied to outscore La Grande 21-11 in the second quarter to stay up front for good. Newsom chipped in 11 points for the quarter, including a six-point streak to keep Pendleton alive.
But La Grande had some keen shooters on their roster — 9 of their 11 points in the second quarter were 3-pointers from junior guard Kaleb Myer and senior guard Braden Bell.
“(Myer and Bell) shot really well,” said Pendleton coach Zach Dong. “They were good off the bounce, got in the lane, and beat us off the dribble.”
Things eased up for the Bucks in the second half. Newsom sunk a 3-pointer with 2 1/2 minutes to go in the third quarter for a 15-point advantage — their biggest lead of the game.
Although Pendleton managed to pull away to secure the win, Dong wanted a more well-rounded game.
“It comes down to taking pride in your defense,” he said. “It’s disappointing to play an offense-driven game. We haven’t gotten to the point where we’re playing good defense.”
The Bucks (8-4) travel to Hood River Valley on Friday to tip off league play.
“We definitely have to clean up our defense before then,” said Newsom. “But we’re coming in pretty hot. I’m confident in us.”
Sometimes, a game can be decided in a single minute.
The Pendleton girls learned just that on Tuesday after losing to host La Grande, 43-37. The Tigers knocked the Bucks from the top with just 1 1/2 minutes to go.
“We hadn’t seen a game where the execution down the stretch really counted, and now we have,” said coach Kevin Porter. “We’ve seen just about everything we needed to see in the preseason.”
Pendleton (3-9) led by eight points until La Grande rallied late in the fourth quarter. Muriel Hoisington posted a team-high 11 points for the Bucks, and Natalie Neveau and Katie Bradt each added nine.
“(La Grande) executed in the last minute, and we stumbled,” Porter said. “That’s what it came down to. But as I told the girls, we’re on to league play now. As long as we learn from this and move on, that’s all I can ask for.”
Pendleton will host Hood River Valley to open the league on Friday.