PENDLETON - The Pendleton Bucks have a game at Jefferson Saturday with a 4A state boys basketball tournament bid on the line after they survived a furious comeback effort by Lake Oswego Thursday for a 78-72 win.
The Buckaroos were hitting on all cylinders for most of the sub-tournament game as they built a 59-37 lead before the Lakers exploded for 35 points in the final quarter to make things interesting.
"I thought the kids just played awfully well for 27 or 28 minutes of the game," Pendleton coach Jeff Quinn said. "They put on a clinic. They really looked for the open man well, they played great defense and I couldn't be more proud of them."
Marcus Buckley paced the Pendleton attack with 21 points, including three 3-point goals. Jerad Short added 15, Brian Nooy scored 14, Cameron Federline scored 12 and Justin Nuess had 11.
Nooy, who along with Buckley and Nuess played for the last time in Pendleton, said the final game at home did not prompt him to play harder. Rather it was the looming challenge of Jefferson and the opportunity to join the Bucks in their first trip to the championship tournament since 1999.
"I wanted to go play Jefferson. They are (a) top team in the state. I have never advanced to the next round in the playoffs, I thought that would be nice too," Brian Nooy said.
"It will be tough. It's always tough to play on the road, especially in Portland. But I think we've got a good shot at it. We have just as good a shot as anybody in the state."
One win away from a bid to the tournament, Nooy is ready for Saturday's game.
"That would be awesome to play there. It's been a goal for four years to get to the tournament and this is as close as I've been," Nooy said. "I can smell it, I can taste the blood."
Pendleton battered the Lakers early and often, breaking open a 13-9 game with a 18-9 second-quarter edge and a 28-19 third-quarter advantage.
"We came out slow against Hermiston," Nooy said of the regular season ending loss. "It showed in the long run what happens, so I think we just figured that we would come out quick and get things going, get the first punch."
Every player Quinn called upon answered the challenge for Pendleton.
"Absolutely," Quinn said. "Matt Gundlach came in and did a great job at the point. He's seen very limited action at the varsity level. Cameron Federline just had a huge game.
"Josh Cochran did a great job off the bench. The kids just seemed to be relaxed and executed. The people that came to the game saw a very good basketball team play."
"That was one of our best games, I think. (Jerad) Short was hitting, (Marcus) Buckley was hitting ... I even got a few shots in there. It was a good game," Nooy said.
Responding like a champion boxer knocked to its knees, Lake Oswego did not go down quietly.
The Lakers connected on 24 field goals, half of which were 3-pointers.
Aaron Collins hit six from long range to tally 25 points. Short gave the Bucks a 70-52 cushion before Collins and the Lakers got red-hot.
Nooy was hit with his fifth foul with 4:04 remaining. The Lakers then went on an 18-4 run that left them behind by only 74-70. A Mike White steal and subsequent basket brought Lake Oswego to within 75-72, but they were held at bay, missing their final shot.
"That fourth quarter, (Lake Oswego) just shot the lights out. I thought the kids were doing everything they possibly could to get out on the shooters," Quinn said.
He said the Bucks are ready for the challenge of facing No. 4 Jefferson.
"It'll be a great challenge for our kids," Quinn said. "They are a great team, but I think that the kids will rise to the challenge and give it everything they can and hopefully things go our way."
Sports editor Christopher Halsey can be reached at 1-800-522-0255 (ext. 1-223) or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.