Cottage Grove victory against Hidden Valley until both teams did what they have done throughout the year. The visiting Mustangs (9-4) have continuously rallied from double-digit deficits while the Lions (1-12) have struggled maintaining rare double-digit leads this season and both teams played true to form on Saturday in Cottage Grove as a tumultuous fourth quarter turned into a Hidden Valley 49-46 comeback victory.
“We’ve come from behind for the last two years with this group and it’s incredibly frustrating and my blood pressure is higher than it should be but it’s always fun to be a part of a game like this,” said Hidden Valley head coach Alex Keller whose team rallied from 16-points down against Illinois Valley earlier this year. “It’s even more fun to be the one that comes out on top.”
Hosting the Sky-Em/Skyline crossover, a weekend of games pitting the two leagues against each other, the Lions were hungry for a victory and had an 18-point lead midway through the third quarter. After Cottage Grove turnovers and a four-point possession for Hidden Valley (fouled on a three-pointer, made two shots, missed the third foul shot, got the offensive rebound and scored a lay-up), the Mustangs finished the quarter on an 8-2 run to cut their deficit to 12.
“[Hidden Valley] did what they needed to do and we didn’t do what we needed to do to win that game,” said Cottage Grove head coach Seth Hutchison. “They needed extra possessions so they sped the game up and we fed right into it. And that’s exactly what we did. And we needed to do the exact opposite. We needed to slow it down, shorten the game and take care of the basketball and get looks that we were getting in the first half. We totally went away from that. That’s on me.”
As the Hidden Valley full-court defense forced Cottage Grove into turnovers, the shots that they had been taking all game started to fall from everyone on the court. In the final quarter of play, the Mustangs outscored Cottage Grove 20-5 and saw five different players score. 10 different Hidden Valley players scored in the game led by Parker Wright with nine points.
All of Cottage Grove’s fourth quarter points came from Dylan Graves who finished with 13 points on the day. Creed Lufkin had 18 points for the Lions.
“Our conversation between the third and fourth quarter was, ‘Hey, we know we’re a fourth quarter team and we know that we can beat these guys, let’s prove it to everyone in the gym.’ And that’s it. It’s that simple,” said Keller. “There’s no magic play, there’s no speech you can give the kids, it’s simply… having confidence in your kids, having confidence in your players.”
From the midway point of the third quarter to the closing minutes of the fourth, Hidden Valley went on a 26-4 run to take back the lead. The Lions looked to rally in the final minute and cut their deficit to two. But despite Hidden Valley misses at the free throw line, they could not come away with a final shot to get the team back into the game.
“Credit to the team, they did a really good job, they responded of what I asked them to do in the first three quarters of the game. We came out and looked like a really good team,” said Hutchison. “I mean, [Hidden Valley is] a 9-4 team now and we came out and looked like a really good team. Now we’ve just got to figure out how to put it in four quarters all together.”
For Cottage Grove, it was their fourth loss this season by three or fewer points. But for first-year head coach Hutchison and the Lions, that are currently ranked 34th of the 34 teams in 4A, he remains hopeful for the league season that begins Friday at Siuslaw.
“Everything that we want to do is still ahead of us. I told them today in the locker room, we can easily get third place in this league and if not, we could get second,” he said. “If we’re clicking and we put it altogether. I truly believe that. There are beatable teams. [The pieces] are there and now we’ve got to put it all together when league hits.”