Following their final league win against Siuslaw, the Cottage Grove boys basketball team returned to the postseason for the first time in five years and squared off against the Molalla Indians in the play-in round. Despite the Lions controlling the game most of the way. Molalla’s flurry of three-pointers in the final quarter got them back in the contest and eventually helped them pull away in the final minutes to get the 55-48 win over Cottage Grove.
“Credit to Molalla they hit some big shots in some big moments,” said Head Coach Seth Hutchison. “I felt really good about that whole game, going down to the last bit of it. But we just didn’t make enough plays to win the game and we didn’t finish consistently around the rim.”
Carter Bascue led the Lions in scoring with 20 points followed by teammates Jayden Cameron with 11 and Brennen Murphy with 9. In the first three quarters, Cottage Grove held Molalla to 29 total points, but the Indians offense exploded in a big way in the fourth quarter. Molalla outscored the Lions 26-12 in the final frame and knocked down six three-pointers in the final eight minutes.
“I’m very proud of this group and what we we’re able to do this past season,” said Senior Guard Jayden Cameron. “Having a winning season in one of the toughest leagues in 4A. A shortened season the year before, but despite all that we came together, we worked hard and trusted each other. This team meant so much to me, so many friendships that carry much farther than basketball.”
The first half was all Cottage Grove, Cameron and Ty Kishen combined for three three-point shots while Bascue and Murphy were holding down the boards and scoring close to the hoop.
As the game drew near halftime the Lions were holding their lead and after an Isaac Stere three-pointer that beat the buzzer to end the second quarter, Cottage Grove held a 26-19 lead going into the break.
Coming out into the second half the flow was very similar to the first two quarters with Cottage Grove being able to respond to every point Molalla put on the board. At the end of the third quarter, the Lions were still very much in control 36-29.
In the first two and a half minutes of the final quarter, three different Molalla players knocked down threes to tie the game at 38, electrifying the home crowd and giving the Indians newfound life. In the ensuing two minutes, Cottage Grove didn’t get rattled and responded with a 10-2 run to catapult themselves back in front with just under three minutes remaining.
“After that run, I felt really good,” said Hutchison. “We were gonna go into our stall offense and make them foul us. But an unfortunate call on the sideline caused Jayden (Cameron) to get his fifth foul. And I think we lost composure after that.”
Shortly after another Molalla made three-pointer, Cameron was called for his fifth personal foul and was forced to miss the remaining two and a half minutes of game action. The Indians were able to tie the game again at 48 apiece on their next possessions while the Lions were struggling to find some offense. With a minute to go Molalla’s Jacob Larson hit a three in the right corner getting another animated response from the home crowd as the Indians had their first lead of the evening 51-48. The offensive issues continued for the Lions down the final minute after not being able to muster another point. Molalla’s Jacob Watson got a steal and turned it into a dunk to close out the game, and the Indians won 55-48 over Cottage Grove.
“I’m extremely proud of these kids,” said Hutchison. “Like I said before this is my first four-year class. So I thought they grew leaps and bounds in their high school basketball careers. And hopefully, we take the next step next year.”
The Lions basketball team will lose some really key contributors from this team going into next year. But the returners have an opportunity to build on the successes of this season and use it as a springboard going into summer and next winter.