In games decided by six points or less, the Creswell boys basketball team have a record of 1-3 in those contests. Unfortunately, the Bulldogs weren’t able to able to change that narrative against the fifth-ranked Santiam Christian Eagles on Jan. 28.
A dagger was struck through the heart of all Creswell faithful with the Bulldogs losing a hard-fought game on a last-second three-pointer made by Santiam Christian’s Jackson Risinger to give the Eagles the road win 49-48.
“We didn’t start the game well,” said Head Coach Jesse Thomas. “They (Santiam Christian) went on a 10-0 run to start the game. After that happened, we kind of had a quick little reset, and then started competing we’re right back in it.”
Creswell’s rotation was significantly changed with players not being available and the Bulldogs only played six players the whole evening. Max Velarde led the way with 12 points on the night followed by Carson Williamson with 11 and Jack Nguyen with 10 on 83 percent shooting. Risinger and Benjamin Bourne led the way for Santiam Christian, each scoring 15 points.
Creswell got punched in the mouth early with a quick scoring barrage from the Eagles giving them a 10-0 lead in the first three minutes of the game. The Bulldogs swung right back up and responded with a run of their own capped off by a Tyler Whitson steal converted to a layup as the first quarter wound down and Santiam Christian only leading 14-12.
The switch to a 2-3 zone for Creswell slowed down the Eagle offense and turned the momentum over to the Bulldogs as they outscored Santiam 15-9 in the second quarter. Hodge scored the last five Creswell points before halftime with the Bulldogs leading 27-23 at halftime.
“The message at halftime was we didn’t compete for the first few minutes of the game,” said Thomas. “Now we’re competing, and we’re executing on both ends fairly well. Like we know exactly what to do and how we need to guard that motion offense with the high curl screen. We knew we had to make them do something else and we did a decent job defensively.”
Nguyen scored or assisted on all six Creswell points in the third quarter while Santiam more than doubled the Bulldog point total to grab the lead back 37-33 at the of the third.
The Eagles were looking like they were going to run away with the game after scoring four more quick points to open the final quarter and leading 41-33.
Williamson converted an and-one, while Velarde put back his own miss for two more points putting Creswell right back in the game only down four with less than three minutes left. Velarde and Connor Hanson combined to make six free throws in the final 2:48 to give Creswell a late lead 48-46 with 3.7 seconds left on the clock.
Following a Santiam Christian timeout, the ball was under the Eagle basket as they executed their out-of-bounds play to get Risinger open on the right side of the three-point line swishing the three as time expired. The Eagles narrowly escaped with a win 49-48 and still hold the top spot in the league.
“It was a sad ending,” said Junior Guard Connor Hanson. “But it shows that we can play as a team and that we can with the rest of the league games if we just play like we did against Santiam Christian. Our first two league games were tough losses, but I think now that we have some rhythm back we’ll be very deadly the rest of the season.”
The road does not get any easier for the Creswell boys who now enter their toughest stretch of the season. Creswell’s next three games are all against top 10 opponents on the road, number one ranked Westside Christian with the results to be determined after The Sentinel’s press time on Feb. 2.
Then a rematch with Pleasant Hill on Feb. 4 followed by a rescheduled matchup on the road against the second ranked team in 3A Cascade Christian on Feb. 7.
12 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists
11 points, 6 rebounds
10 points (83% FG)
9 points, 3 rebounds