LA GRANDE — The wait is over. McGloughlin High School clinched an Oregon state 4A tourney spot here Friday in Greater Oregon League District boys basketball action.
It took the Pioneers an extra period but they got the job done with a 66-62 win over La Grande.
The win sends the Pioneers to Baker Tuesday to play for the District Championship, but more importantly, clinches a spot in the final 16 of the state 4A playoffs.
It has been 24 years, 1995, since the Pioneers have made a state appearance.
“We’ve never beaten La Grande in La Grande,” Pioneers coach Jordon Poynor said. “La Grande is a tough place to play. It is a very exciting time. We had (when I started here five years ago) a five year plan hoping this would be where we are. Really proud of the kids.”
The Pioneers struck first and put up 23 first-quarter points and took a 23-12 lead.
The Tigers cut into that lead a bit, but Mac-Hi went to intermission up 37-28.
“We played well in the first half,” Poynor commented. “We shared the basketball and got stops. We were up by as many as 14 in the second quarter.”
It has been forever since the Pioneers knocked off the Tigers on their home court, and the Tigers were not about to go away easily. La Grande whittled the lead to 46-39 after three.
La Grande grabbed its first lead of the night at 55-54 with 2:30 left in the game.
“We were in control the first three quarters. They (La Grande) kept chipping away in the second half,” Poynor added. “They got the lead and we failed to make key free throws.”
The Tigers hit a free throw with 20 seconds left for a 56-54 lead. The Pioneers got a shot from the corner for the win with 12 ticks left. The air ball was corraled by Zach Hodgen who put it back in at the buzzer to send the game to overtime at 56-56.
“We have been a resilent group all year,” Poynor continued. “Hodgen’s bucket gave us a lot of momentum going into overtime.”
Alexis Pio hit a triple, Alexis Perez took a charge, and Dareagan Stephens sank a trey and the Pioneers were up 62-56 90 seconds into overtime.
“We go up six,” Poynor said of the overtime. “We run a minute off the clock and then to make it interesting, we couldn’t convert our freethrows.”
The Tigers drained a trey with seconds left to narrow the gap to 64-62. Pio was fouled and nailed two free throws to ice the 66-62 Pioneer win.
“Pio hit those two freethrows and the rest is history,” Poynor concluded. “It was an incredible game. I’ve never experienced anything like this (Friday) win. It was just fun.”
La Grande’s Nick Tsiatsos led all scorers with a 20-point performance.
Hodgen paced a quartet of double digit scorers for the Pioneers with a team high 15 points. Perez hit for 14. Stephens and Hector Castillo each finished with 10.
The Pioneers take an 18-8 mark into Tuesday’s District title match with the Bulldogs.
Pioneers 66, Tigers 62, OT
MCLOUGHLIN (66) — Stephens 10, Ruiz 3, H. Castillo 10, Gilmore 2, Pio 7, Hodgen 15, Brinkley 5, Perez 14. Totals 21-40 15-22 66.
LA GRANDE (62) — Myer 5, Jenner 10, Bell 7, Tsistsos 20, Wiggins 1, Mendoza 4, DuVernay 2, Youngblood 8, Chandler 5.
3-point goals — Mac 9 (Stephens 3, Ruiz, H. Castillo, Pio, Hodgen, Brinkley, Perez), LaG 7 (Myer, Tsiatsos 6). Total fouls — Mac 17, LaG 20. Fouled out — none . Technical fouls — Mac (Hodgen), LaG (Tsiatsos).