PENDLETON - The St. Mary's Crusaders reached the semifinals of the OSAA/US Bank/Les Schwab Class 2A boys state basketball tournament for the second straight year, knocking off the Imbler Panthers 55-42 at the Pendleton Convention Center Wednesday.

"We didn't shoot real well and slipped on defense," Imbler head coach Ken Kramer said. "St. Mary's has good size and has a great ball club. They could win it all."

Michael Fiddler was an assist shy of a triple-double for the Crusaders, scoring 16 points, reeling in 11 rebounds and dishing out nine assists.

St. Mary's shot 62 percent from the field in the decisive second half, outscoring Imbler 38-22 in the half, and will play Regis at 7 p.m. Friday in the Convention Center. Imbler will play Bandon at 4:30 p.m. today in the fourth-place semifinals at the Convention Center.

"It feels real good to get this win," St. Mary's head coach Tim Pflug said. "We deserve a day off to rest and we'll be ready to play (Friday)."

Imbler led as much as 22-10 after an Ethan Davis 3-pointer in the second quarter, but the Cusaders stormed back with a 13-3 run to close quarter. St. Mary's freshman Austin Grant started the run with a nice runner and Fiddler drilled a 3-pointer near the end of the half, cutting the Imbler lead 25-23 at halftime.

"They didn't show us anything we weren't expecting with their press, but maybe it was second-game jitters," Pflug said. "I am noted to get a little red-faced and pop-eyed at times, but I didn't need to do that this time. We just enforced the game plan at halftime to get them going."

St. Mary's exploded with a 10-0 run to open the third quarter, sparked by five points from Fiddler and a Greg Gradwell 3-pointer.

"We didn't play that well in the first half, but we picked it up in the second half," said Gradwell, who scored 13 points.

The Cusaders took a 33-25 lead with 5:38 remaining in the third, but Imbler responded. Alan O'Donald hit a 3-pointer and Tanner McIntosh scored four points over the next four minutes as the Panthers pulled within 38-35 heading into the fourth quarter.

St. Mary's was sparked by Grant early in the fourth quarter with two 3-pointers and Fiddler set up Warren Cooper for a 3-point play as St. Mary's opened up a 47-37 lead with 5:47 left.

"I have a freshman point guard (Grant) and I was a little skeptical of how he would respond," Pflug said. "Obviously, his play showed that I was very pleased with his performance."

Imbler would cut the lead to 49-43 after a McIntosh 3-pointer, but with 3:50 left in the game the Panthers were forced to foul. St. Mary's converted 12 of 15 free throws in the final two minutes for the victory.

"It's a good feeling to get this win," Fiddler said. "We're hoping to get to the finals."

Cooper finished with a game-high 18 points and gathered seven rebounds for the Crusaders and Grant added 10 points. McIntosh and Trevor Crow paced Imbler with 10 points each.

Sports reporter Joe McHaney can be reached at 1-800-522-0255 (ext. 1-236) or by e-mail at jmchaney@eastoregonian.com.

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