Ontario's Danny Rodriguez shoots for two along the baseline during a league contest with La Grande Friday. (The Enterprise/Pat Caldwell).

ONTARIO – The Ontario Tiger boys dropped a 63-46 basketball decision to La Grande Friday night, but the 17-point margin didn’t dampen coach Kevin Attila’s optimism.

He wasn’t entirely dissatisfied with the performance of his Tigers.

 “This team is fun to coach, and they enjoy learning,” said Attila.

La Grande used a second-quarter scoring surge to get out in front of the Tigers and took control in the third stanza to post the win.

Ontario trailed by one, 15-14, at the end of the first quarter and stayed close to the Tigers most of the second quarter. Danny Rodriguez’s lay in with 4:21 left in the first half put Ontario to within 26-21 but La Grande slowly began establishing jurisdiction and built a 38-26 lead at intermission.

The Tigers outscored Ontario 15-9 in the third frame to seal the win.

“We just gave them way too many opportunities,” said Ontario senior player Dallon Haueter.

Yet Haueter, who paced Ontario with 14 points in the first frame, was just as upbeat as his coach.

“I think we are headed in the right direction. As a team we are playing well together,” said Haueter.

Attila agreed.

“I am happy with our effort,” he said.

Attila pointed out Ontario (0-1 GOL) out rebounded the Tigers 36-33. Even turnovers – Ontario gave up the ball 14 times – didn’t seem to dampen Atilla’s enthusiasm.

“This is a sign we are doing better. We won the rebound margin and that was our goal. Shots were just not falling tonight,” said Attila.

Ontario faced a La Grande team that executed well down the stretch.

“You have to give La Grande credit. Against a team like La Grande you must do everything right. La Grande is so disciplined. We expected a battle,” said Attila.

Attila said Friday night there were moments of brilliance, especially from impact players like Haueter and Rodriguez, who finished with 12 points.

Ontario plays Vale Tuesday night.