Bulldog Boys lose OT thriller against Billies

Kendrick Murphy/CG Sentinel

From start to finish the game between the Creswell boys basketball team and visiting Pleasant Hill Billies was like a prized title fight with each team trading shots the whole evening. The Bulldogs and Billies came into the evening both ranked in the OSAA top 10, with this game being the first return to the hardwood for Creswell after their COVID-19 pause. 

The league opener contained plenty of excitement the whole night and saw the game need extra time to decide a winner, but two clutch free throws in the last five seconds of overtime made by Pleasant Hill’s Braedyn Cantrell gave the Billies the 62-61 win over Creswell. 

“There was a lot of wasted possessions I felt like on our end,” said Head Coach Jesse Thomas. “I thought  Pleasant Hill did a good job of offensive rebounding especially in the first half. We did a better job rebounding in the second half but now if you look at you look at the shots that they were taking most of them were in the paint, getting beat off the dribble, that really hurt us on too many possessions. There were times where we guarded well but there were too many times where we didn’t.”

Mex Velarde led the Bulldogs in scoring on the evening with 19 points, followed by teammates Connor Hanson with 16 and AJ Hodge with 10 points off the bench. Gavin English led Pleasant Hill in scoring with 17 while Cantrell added 14. 

“I think when we play them again with practices and no breaks the game will look way different,” said Junior Forward AJ Hodge. “The game against Pleasant Hill will help us grow by learning from our mistakes in the game and seeing what’s a bad shot and bad possession. And we’ll make it to where we don’t give other teams easy points going forward.”

Creswell gave Pleasant Hill a tough time on offense to start, but the Bulldogs didnt give up a point until near halfway through the first quarter. Hanson and Velarde knocked in the first points for Creswell with two three-pointers and the Bulldogs getting an early 6-0 lead. 

Pleasant Hill’s offense started to warm up after Cantrell drained a three and later found teammate English to beat the first-quarter buzzer and the Billies ending the quarter on top 15-13. 

Coming into the second quarter, Creswell had to deal with some foul trouble with Velarde and Jack Nguyen each having two fouls and being forced to sit on the bench. 

The Billies had a 17-13 lead over Creswell but a Caleb Lee made three and Hanson made jumper brought the game back to square at 20. 

Pleasant Hill then manufactured a 7-0 scoring run with a couple of minutes left in the half and looking to take a lead into the locker room at halftime. Hanson ignited a 7-0 run for his home squad to respond,  and also drilled a last-second three just before the half came to a close with the score being fittingly deadlocked at 27. 

“I thought we started well, we knocked down some shots early,” said Thomas. “We just took a lot of difficult shots when we didn’t need to. There was a real lack of discipline and patience that created energy and momentum for them (Pleasant Hill) because we would miss and then they’d get a bucket and, you know, whether it was an offensive rebound or just getting beat off the dribble. If you look at the difficulty level of the shots that were taken by the two teams, they (Pleasant Hill) consistently had much easier shots than we did and now that’s by our own fault in our decision making with the ball in our hands on the the miscues on the defensive end.”

Pleasant Hill opened the third quarter by scoring the first four points and outscoring Creswell 7-2 in the first two minutes of the quarter. The Bulldogs swung back and grabbed their first lead of the half after Velarde found Hanson in transition for a three-pointer and Hanson converted a steal on defense into two points on offense. The Billies kept the common theme going with Cantrell sparking another run before the third quarter came to an end and the visitors leading 43-41 a the end of the third.

The Billies were able to hold their lead much of the fourth quarter until near the three-minute mark left in the game and Pleasant Hill leading 53-47. Velarde scored on back-to-back possessions for Creswell to cut the lead down to one with 1:25 to go in the game. Buckets made by Lee and Hodge for the Bulldogs tied the game back at 56 in the final minute of the game. Pleasant Hill was called for a travel with less than five seconds left, giving Creswell a small chance to win the game in regulation. The Bulldogs weren’t able to score, forcing the game to go into overtime tied at 56 apiece. 

“We had a couple of really costly turnovers at the beginning of overtime,” said Thomas. “Both teams were kind of scoring at will and it just came down to who was going to get get a few stops, I think we missed two or three shots in overtime in the paint, on drives to the bucket that ultimately ended up being kind of the difference.” 

Overtime started exactly like the second half with Pleasant Hill scoring the first points of the extra period and Creswell swiftly responding. The Bulldogs whittled down their deficit to only one with 35 seconds left in the game. On the next possession for Creswell, Hanson attacked the basket but dished a pass to Velarde for the go-ahead score with less than 10 seconds to go. Following a Billies timeout, Cantrell dribbled up the right side of the court near the boundary and was fouled by Hodge with three seconds on the clock. Cantrell stepped up to the line and made a pair of free throws to give Pleasant Hill the lead 62-61 with three seconds remaining. Hanson had a decent look for the miracle half-court heave but didn’t bounce the way of the Bulldogs as Pleasant Hill earned a hard-fought win. 

“We’ve been able to play well and have some success against some good teams,” said Thomas, “It’s just a matter of being able to put it together for an entire game which is what has kind of hurt us against the good teams. The Pleasant Hill’s, the Junction City’s we just didn’t put it together for an entire game. We had our moments but if you’re going to be a state level team, you have to be able to pull it together for four quarters on a consistent basis and we haven’t done that yet.”

Creswell will have another top league matchup when Santiam Christian comes to town on Jan. 28 and will not have to wait long on a rematch with the Billies which will come on Feb. 4 at Pleasant Hill. 

Stat Leaders

Max Velarde 

19 points, 7 rebounds

Connor Hanson 

16 points, 3 assists

AJ Hodge 

10 points, 2 rebounds 

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