In a matchup featuring a pair of teams that have both been frustrated throughout the season, it was Elmira using a strong fourth quarter to defeat Cottage Grove 57-47 on Friday night.
“That was tough. That was really tough, that’s just how the season has been,” said first year Cottage Grove head coach Seth Hutchison after the loss. Heading into the fourth quarter of Friday’s road game, the Lions (5-17, 3-5 Sky-Em) had a one-point advantage over the Falcons (8-12, 2-6). But instead of a close fourth quarter contest, it was an Elmira 15-3 run to take the Lions out of the game.
The scoring came from across the board as five different Falcons in the quarter. For Elmira head coach, and CGHS teacher, Nick Garman, his team’s fourth quarter performance seemed to be an answer to his pre-game challenge.
“I get it, I’m from a different era where we didn’t have cell phones and we didn’t have video games until I was in high school. What we did was play sports and everything was based on sports: did we win, did we lose? And if we lose we were in a bad mood,” said Garman. “Losing motivated us. I said, ‘You guys aren’t the same as me. And I recognize that but I challenge you right now, we’ve got to go out and put some effort into winning.’ And winning is important. And just said, ‘We’ve got to play with fire.’”
In the team’s first meetings, it was fire that was lacking as Cottage Grove jumped out to a 16-0 lead before defeating the Falcons 53-40. But on Friday night, the teams traded baskets early on as the Falcons led 14-12 after one quarter of play.
As Cottage Grove switched to their bigger lineup featuring the height of Creed Lufkin, Jasper Nichols-Ferguson and Shambay Trapp – all of whom are over 6-foot-4 – Elmira countered by pressing the Cottage Grove ball-handlers.
“We don’t press much. But it’s like, we can’t guard their three big guys with my little guys. So we got to try to change the game,” said Garman who has one player over 6-foot-4 on his team.
The press worked to varying results as the Lions, at times, broke it with the ease of three simple passes that created open lay-ups while, at other times, committed turnovers.
“I don’t feel like they caused us to do those things and sometimes that’s just the press,” said Hutchison. “That’s just what they want you to do, get your mind spinning. Get you rushed a little bit and you start to be lackadaisical with the basketball in those situations where you start to throw it away.”
Despite turnovers, Cottage Grove rallied in the third quarter as they went on a 10-0 run to take the lead going into the fourth quarter. The Lions were led in scoring by Nichols-Ferugson with 13 points. Jaden Doolittle and Lufkin each added eight points for the team.
Cottage Grove was limited in the game by their short-bench as Hutchison stuck to a seven-man rotation.
“We’re really thin and it hurts, it hurts at times. Leaving some kids out there and they try to push through their tiredness and in reality it should be the next guy up rather than fight through that,” said Hutchison. “That’s when things happen when you get tired.”
The team’s depth took a hit recently after starting guard – and the team’s only returning starter from last season – Erick Giffen’s departure from the team that Hutchison described as being “mutual.”
The Lions finish the regular season this week with home games against Junction City and Marist.
“Nothing changes even if you don’t have as much to play for. Nothing changes, you’re still competitive, you’re still playing hard,” said Hutchison. Adding, “Keep getting better, keep competing, keep being a good teammate. And you just hope for the best and play hard. Effort is half the battle.”