By Brad Mosher
The (La Grande) Observer
Cove's Leopards ran into a tough battle with Joseph early in the Old Oregon League district opener for both teams Thursday.
It just didn't last, as the Leopards ran off with a 52-22 victory that put them in today's semifinal with Imbler at 2:15 p.m. in the Baker High School gymnasium.
Cove has lost to Imbler three times earlier this season, with two of the losses being by fewer than five points.
The two teams battled through the first quarter with Cove taking an early lead, only to have the Eagles come back halfway through the period to brief grab the lead themselves.
A pair of baskets in the final minute of the quarter gave Cove a 14-9 edge at the first break.
Joseph's Blair Beaudoin cut the lead to just three points (14-11) before the Leopards pounced on the Eagles with 9-1 run that gave Cove a 23-12 halftime lead.
It got colder in the third quarter for Joseph as the Eagles were shut out while Cove ran off 19 unanswered points.
Ahead 42-12 going into the final quarter, the Leopards' bench got plenty of playing time as both teams finished the game by scoring 10 points.
Colton DeMeerleer led the Leopards in scoring with 15, while both Tayton Duby and Derek Murchison added eight points each. Brandon Batty finished the game with six points, as did Bailey Hill. Jayden Moore scored four, as Beau Knight finished with three and Jacob Colvin put in two.
The Eagles were in scoring by Masahiro Yamamoto and Eric Lara with four points each. Ben Smallen and Austin Wells put in three points each, while Beaudoin, Gage Jarman, Wil Story and David Lewis each had two points.
The loss ended the Eagles' season with a 2-19 season record. The team finished in a tie with Pine Eagle (1-9) in the Old Oregon League race.
According to Cove coach TedRoy McBride, the defense that Joseph opened the game with took some time for the Leopards to adjust to it. "Joseph came out and played with a lot of heart," he said.
"Our main goal tonight was to get a feel for the floor - to take care of business and get used to the big stage here (districts)."
One thing that helped to break the game open for the Leopards was using a press against the Eagles. "We switched to the press in order to get a jumpstart," McBride said. "We needed to get ourselves aggressive. We were kind of sitting back on our heels."