Grant Union def. Joseph 60-53
LA GRANDE - The third and fourth-place seeds into the upcoming District 8-2A Wapiti League boys basketball tournament came down to a best-of-three series between Grant Union and Joseph.
The Prospectors and the Eagles had squared off against one another twice during the regular season, with each team winning on its home floor.
On Jan. 21, Grant Union picked up a 62-60 victory over Joseph, with the Eagles returning the favor on Feb. 21, dumping the Prospectors 78-75.
The third meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 25, played on a neutral floor at La Grande High School, was a tight contest from the start, exactly as the two previous games had been.
Both teams entered the contest with 8-6 league records, and Joseph took a one-point, a 14-13, lead after the first quarter of play.
The Eagles upped the lead to three points on two occasions in the second quarter before a basket by Bo Thunell with 13 seconds remaining in the period cut the lead back to a single point, 25-24, at halftime.
In the third quarter the Prospectors clamped down on the defensive end of the floor holding the Eagles to nine points while scoring 16 of their own, and went on to nail down third place in the Wapiti League with a 60-53 victory.
"Joseph didn't shoot the ball nearly as well as they did the last time we played, but neither did we," Grant Union coach Mike Workman said. "I told the kids at halftime that it was going to come down to us playing good defense and rebounding the ball if we wanted to win, and that's exactly what we did in the second half."
The Prospectors opened the second half of play going on a 7-0 run with a basket by Andy Ellison to open the quarter, a three-point play by Thunell at the 7:09 mark, and a 2 for 2 effort by Thunell from the charity stripe with 6:36 remaining in the quarter to take a 31-25 lead which was never surrendered.
Joseph shaved the lead to three points on a put-back basket by Cole Lathrop, but a three-point bomb by Ellison upped the lead to 36-30 with 3:46 remaining in the period.
The Eagles managed to get back within four points late in the quarter before Adam Kowing scored on a put-back with seven seconds left to give the Prospectors a 40-34 lead after three quarters of play.
In the fourth quarter Grant Union went up by 10 points with 4:43 remaining on another Ellison basket, and then went into four-corner game running time off the clock.
"We were able to get the lead and then extend it," Workman said. "We got that little lead and protected it, and took care of the ball when we needed to. This was a big win for us."
Joseph knocked down a pair of three-pointers in the waning moments, but the Prospectors were able to hit their free throws down the stretch to seal the victory.
The Prospectors had three players in double figures led by Trevor Simmons and Thunell who scored 16 points each. Taylor Schmadeka added 10 points.
Ellison scored nine points and Kowing also had nine, seven of which came in the fourth quarter.
Lathrop scored a game-high 21 points for Joseph before fouling out in the fourth quarter. Teammate Eric Butterfield added 12 points.