MILTON-FREEWATER - The Mac-Hi Pioneers boys basketball team was outlasted by the La Grande Tigers, 64-49, here Tuesday night in Greater Oregon League action.
"What I'm taking from the game," Mac-Hi coach Curtis Carlson said, "is that losing by 10 to 15 points instead of 40 against Ontario last Saturday is a big improvement.
"Still, I don't want any moral victories," he said. "Losing is still losing. We've been getting better every day in practice and I've been pushing these guys. I've been trying to get these guys to have confidence and tonight they did that. They came out expecting to win the game rather than hoping. There is a big difference."
The Pioneers started off slow, being outscored 30-11 in the first half. The second-half comeback fell just short, being derailed by the 3-point shooting of the Tigers.
Mac-Hi blasted down the doors in the third quarter, starting on a 12-3 run to cut the lead to nine points. In the quarter, Mac-Hi outscored La Grande 22-14 to put the lead at 11 heading into the final period.
In the third quarter, the Pioneers' Derek Richwine scored eight of his team-high 19 points and Saul Ortiz connected on two shots from downtown for six points.
Point guard Jesse Field dished out four of his five team-high assists and added a bucket.
The Tigers' Loran Ackerman canned a couple of 3-pointers and made a field goal early in the fourth quarter to lead the Tigers on a 10-4 run to push the lead back to 17 points.
The Pioneers weren't done yet, and responded with a 10-3 run to cut the lead back to 10 points with 2:31 remaining in the game.
In the fourth-quarter Mac-Hi run, Richwine pumped in five points, on a hoop and three-point play. Jeremy Ley added four points and Ortiz made a free throw.
The Tigers and Pioneers traded two points over the next minute and it was a 10-point lead with 1:20 remaining in the game.
La Grande finished the game on a 5-0 run to complete the victory, including three charity stripe tosses in the closing seconds.
Overall, Mac-Hi outscored La Grande 38-34 in the second half.
"In one half, 38 points is our best total by far," Carlson said. "Our highest score in one game is 61 points. Definitely in one half - I think - that is the most we've had.
"(We've made) a lot of steps in the right direction and good things, but we've got to play good in every quarter and every game, not just one half every 10-12 games," he said.
The Pioneer defense played well all game long, in a 2-2-1 half-court press. Mac-Hi forced 28 La Grande turnovers on 11 Mac-Hi steals.
The Pioneers turned the ball over just 12 times.
"The 2-2-1 press is to slow them down on their way to the hoop," Carlson said. "That is the kind of game we want to play. We've got to slow other teams down. Because, with the exception of tonight in the second half, we haven't been able to match other teams shot-for-shot.
"Tonight, we played hard and played our hearts out. We play hard every night and every day, but tonight it really showed. It is a tribute to how hard these kids play and work."
The Pioneers (0-8 in GOL play, 0-20 overall) have just one more chance this season to garner a win at 7:30 p.m. Friday at home on senior night against league-leading Baker in the season finale.
"If we can put together a good team effort for 32 minutes," Carlson said, "play with confidence and believe in each other, then we can play with any team - including Baker."
La Grande's league record is now 5-3, good for second place in the GOL.
La Grande 64, Mac-Hi 49
LA GRANDE (64) - Sofe 5 0-0 11, Humber 1 1-3 3, Wicklander 0 2-2 2, Stone 4 3-3 11, Rogers 1 1-1 2, Ackerman 9 3-4 24, Jenkins 1 0-0 2, Madsen 1 3-4 5, Goss 0 5-6 5, White 0 0-0 0. Totals 22 16-23 64.
MAC-HI (49) - Fields 2 0-1 4, Sandoval 1 0-0 2, Richwine 8 3-3 19, Hinton 1 1-2 3, Ortiz 2 1-3 7, Shuler 3 4-4 10, Ley 2 0-0 4, Williams 0 0-0 0, McElrath 0 0-0 0. Totals 19 9-13.
La Grande 13 17 14 20 - 64
Mac-Hi 6 5 22 16 - 49
3-point goals - LaG 4 (Ackerman 3, Sofe), Mac 2 (Ortiz 2). Total fouls - LaG 8, Mac 19. Fouled out - none. Technical fouls - none. Rebounds - LaG 30 (Stone 9), Mac 14 (Richwine 7). Turnovers - LaG 28, Mac 12. Assists - LaG 8 (Humber 3), Mac 10 (Fields 5).