PENDLETON - The Pendleton boys found themselves in familiar territory Tuesday night when they fought back from a nine-point halftime deficit to take La Grande to overtime at Warberg Court.
It was the second time in as many weeks Pendleton played an OT game at home.
After beating Walla Walla in overtime a week earlier, they found themselves on the short end of a 75-72 La Grande victory.
With 3.3 seconds left in OT, sophomore reserve Spenser Sundin took an inbound pass in front of his own bench, turned and fired a 3-point shot. It went millimeters long, bouncing off the back of the rim. La Grande (1-1) grabbed the rebound and heaved the ball downcourt to end the game and saddle the Bucks (2-1) with their first loss of the season.
Sundin led the Bucks with 21 points, eight of those coming in the overtime period. Senior Shann West also turned in a solid performance with 17 points, and had a block underneath La Grande's basket as time expired in regulation.
The Tigers had unanswered questions coming off their state runner-up finish in Class 3A a season ago. But head coach Aaron Mills said tonight goes a long way toward answering some of them.
"For as early in the season as it is and the fact that we have no returning starters, I thought overall our kids played really well tonight," he said. "We learned that we could play at a certain level and we didn't know (before Tuesday), you know, and I felt like the kids worked hard in the off-season and I thought we had potential to play well. But you have to be good to win on a night like this, and at least the kids know they have the potential to be a good basketball team. That's the biggest thing right there."
Leading scorer for the Tigers was senior Landon Weaver with 22 points, while senior Taylor Evans added another 18.
"I didn't know what to expect, you know," Weaver said. "We have five new starters this year and we lost our last game, and you just come into the game not knowing what to expect and it feels great to get a win like this, especially because Pendleton is a bigger school and they have always been a rival of La Grande. It's always a great win to beat Pendleton."
After going on a 14-4 run to start the second half, the Bucks pulled within 34-32, and the two teams traded buckets for the remainder of the third quarter, making it a 44-42 Tiger lead going into the fourth.
Then in the fourth, the Bucks started using a full-court trap which forced some turnovers and led to some easy baskets. The Tigers stayed with them blow for blow, though catching Pendleton jogging back on defense a couple of times for some easy baskets of their own.
With 2:35 left in regulation, the Bucks took the lead 57-55 on a long Sundin 3-pointer, but were unable to capitalize after La Grande threw the ball away on its next possession. Over the next minute, the game would be tied three times and La Grande briefly recaptured the lead on a Tim Hall jump shot before West was able to tie it back up seconds later.
With 35 seconds left and the game tied at 61, La Grande held the ball for the last shot. After calling a timeout with 12.2 seconds on the clock, the Tigers inbounded the ball and nearly lost it but were able to gain control and get the ball to their man down low. Two missed layups and a West block later, the game would head to overtime.
La Grande scored the first points in the extra period on an old-fashioned 3-point play by senior Tyler Warner, but Pendleton again fought back to tie the game at 70 on a running baseline jumper by Sundin with 1:27 left.
La Grande would retake the lead on the next possession. Following two Sundin free throws to pull within 73-72 with 54.7 seconds remaining, the Bucks nearly stole an errant pass as the Tigers brought the ball down the court.
La Grande was able to secure the ball and draw a foul to send Evans to the line for two with 18 ticks left. He made both shots to make it the final score.
"We dug ourselves a pretty big hole in the first half, and that's what did it," Bucks coach Stu Clem said. "We did a great job in the second half and that was very positive. We've got to build on that because that's what preseason is all about. Kind of learn from it a little bit and get better because it's not going to get easier. ... We've got to do some different things and we've got to do them pretty well."
Pendleton faces Kellogg (Idaho) on the road Friday.
LA GRANDE (1-1) 13 15 16 17 14 -75
PENDLETON (2-1) 11 8 23 19 11 -72
LA GRANDE - Landon Weaver 22, Cody McKague 10, Anthony Nice 4, Taylor Evans 18, Tyler Warner 6, Tyler Johnson 13, Luke Kevan 2
PENDLETON - Mikal Wright 3, Tucker Whitten 5, Codi Warner 10, Robert Thorne 8, Shann West 17, Darren Pahl 2, Spenser Sundin 21, Jace McGrath 6
3-point field goals - LaGrande 8, Pendleton 4. Free throws - LaGrande 13-19, Pendleton 14-23. Fouls - LaGrande 20, Pendleton 18.