By BRAD MOSHER
The (La Grande) Observer
Imbler escaped with a 44-43 victory Thursday in the opening round of the Old Oregon League's district playoffs, but the Panthers literally had to wait to the last second.
Andrew Fullerton had given the Panthers a 44-42 lead by sinking two free throws with just nine seconds on the clock.
But when Cove's Phil Allen was fouled with just one second left, he had a chance to tie the game again.
Allen's first shot missed and he sank his second attempt, giving the ball to Imbler to inbound and with the Panthers still holding the lead, 44-43.
The tight finish came in the fourth quarter when the Leopards started off behind by five, 33-28.
With 5:30 left, the Panthers had built the lead up to nine points, 39-30.
Zach Doren started the run with a basket off a rebound with 3:13 left, then added a free throw seconds later after being fouled while driving to the basket.
Brandon Batty hit a jumper off an offensive rebound with 2:59 left to cut Imbler's advantage to 39-35. But it was Crayson McBride's three-pointer with 2:12 left that cut the lead to 39-38 and force Imbler coach Mike Mills to call a timeout to regroup.
Casey Robertson gave the Panthers a four-point lead with a layup and a free throw when he was fouled with 2:01 left.
But Cove came back again on Batty's jumper with 1:37 left, making the score 42-40.
Cove tied the game with a long shot that didn't go in. McBride missed his three-point shot with 46 seconds left, but he was fouled.
McBride hit two of his three free throws, making the score 42-all.
That set the stage for Fullerton's free throws giving Imbler the win.
Imbler had gotten off to a fast start, scoring the game's first nine points, but Doren's three-pointer and a pair of Batty baskets closed the score to 9-7 with 2:15 left.
Imbler will play Powder Valley tonight at 8:15 p.m.