There were no panic bells going off one game into the season, but Cottage Grove received a harsh dose of reality last Thursday in their season opener as North Bend came to town and ran past the Lions for a 60-39 victory.
“It’s a long season. It’s a process. You know, one game doesn’t define your season,” said first-year head coach Seth Hutchison after the loss. “I thought this was a good stepping – you know, just kind of a bar to gauge where we’re at. We’ve got to go back to work.”
Offense proved hard to come by for the Lions throughout the contest as they hit just eight field goals on the day.
For North Bend, a newly 5A squad, guard Jayden Frank was on a scoring mission from the first possession. Frank, who was player of the year in the Far West League a season ago in addition to second-team all-state, scored at will netting a game-high 27 points on the day.
“I think I was just being aggressive, sometimes a little overly aggressive in turning the ball over but I think being aggressive from the get-go and setting the tone early helped us out,” said Frank. “It was a great way to start. First game, everybody is a little nervous, everybody is a little rusty and we got to get back into it. To go out there and play a good game like that, it means a lot going forward.”
Cottage Grove trailed by nine in the early goings of the first quarter but a six-point scoring surge in the last minute lifted the team to within five points heading into the second quarter. Instead of a trend, it proved to be just a fluke from Cottage Grove as North Bend opened up the second quarter with a 15-2 run to push the Lions away.
The Lions struggled to find an offensive rhythm scoring just one field goal in the quarter but being aided by six made free throws by senior guard Erick Giffen. Giffen finished a perfect eight-of-eight from the line as he led the team in scoring with 12 points on the night. As a team, Cottage Grove finished 23-of-29 from the line.
“I think we played great defense,” said North Bend’s Frank. “I think the only time they got baskets was when we fouled and they were at the free throw line or we didn’t get back on defense in transition. I think our defense really started everything for us.”
Things didn’t get better for Cottage Grove after halftime as North Bend outscored them 20-6 in the third quarter. The Lions scored just one field goal in the third and early in the fourth trailed by 30.
With the North Bend starters out, the Lions found a modicum of offense scoring 12 points in the quarter. Dylan Graves and Creed Lufkin each finished with eight points for Cottage Grove.
“We’ve got to get tougher. We’ve got to be a little more physical. We’ve got to buy in to what we’re running,” said Hutchison. “I think we were taking steps in that, but this is a whole new offense. I don’t expect them to know it right off the bat. Like I said, it’s a good bar-setting game. And let’s go from there. Yeah, move on to the next one.”
Yesterday (after The Sentinel’s press deadline) the Lions hosted Gladstone at home. On Saturday (Dec. 8) they have their first road test as they face North Valley before returning home Tuesday (Dec. 11) to host Sisters.