After a three-day trip to the coast, the Lions were happy to be back in the South Valley. It’s Christmas week, after all, but for boys’ head coach Seth Hutchison, he’s already excited to get back out there.
“I love getting all these games. I love having back-to-back-to-back games,” Hutchison said after a Monday morning practice. “It helps them create a short memory.”
A short memory was what the team needed. After an 0-4 start to the season, Cottage Grove climbed to a 3-5 overall record by winning three of their four games last week. First, the Lions took down Sisters 45-30 on Tues., Dec. 17 for their first victory of 2019. Then, on Thurs., Dec. 19 they headed to the coast for the three-day Seaside Holiday Tournament, going 2-1 in their three games with wins over Madras and Centralia (Wash.) and a loss to Montesano (Wash.).
“It was a confidence-building week for us,” Hutchison said. “It showed us that we can be successful and the work that we’re doing now is leading towards that. To win three out of four, I was proud.”
The team has only two seniors on the roster — post player Zach Anlauf and guard Daetryl Berry — but as the younger players gain more experience and the overall group begins to gel, contributions are starting to come from all over the roster.
Anlauf performed all weekend in Seaside, averaging 10.3 points and eight rebounds per game while shooting 65 percent from the field.
“[Zach] is just a level kid,” Hutchison said. “He just stays level mentally, he’s positive, he wants other kids to work hard and you can see that through him actually doing it. He’s been a big leader for us. He’s just continuing to elevate his play.”
Anlauf, nonetheless, was not alone. Sophomore Carter Bascue had 10 points — on a perfect 5/5 shooting — seven rebounds and four assists in the 50-44 win against Madras. In Cottage Grove’s 48-40 win over Centralia two days later, Bascue did the gritty work with 11 rebounds and three blocks while Berry (eight points, three rebounds, four assists, four steals) and fellow sophomores Jayden Cameron (nine points, three rebounds) and Landon Colburn (11 points, five assists, four steals) provided an offensive spark.
“I saw a lot of maturity. I saw a lot of kids starting to turn the corner a little bit, starting to make those next steps,” Hutchison said, while adding that the team still has a long way to go.
“Now, it wasn’t consistent and we’re trying to get to consistency. That’s kinda the goal for us, that we’re doing things correctly, 100 percent of the time. That’s going to take time with the youth that we have … We’re really trying to gear up for January, for our first league game against Siuslaw. Everything we’re doing is going towards that. Our goals start there.”
The recent progress, however, shouldn’t come as a surprise as taking on challenges in an effort to improve has been a part of Hutchison’s plans since the summer. The Lions competed in the Eugene summer basketball league with bigger schools like Churchill, Sheldon, North Eugene and South Eugene.
“I want these kids playing a lot of basketball and I’m a big believer in being challenged,” Hutchison said. “I think if you’re challenged, you’re gonna get to where you wanna be faster.”
And the challenges will continue. After a three-day weekend tournament on the coast, the Lions head the opposite direction on Fri., Dec. 27 for the Sisters Holiday Tournament where their first game will be against defending state champion Banks.
The Lady Lions started 2019 with a small slump of their own, going 1-2 in their first three contests, but have since turned their year around in a big way. The girls have gone 4-1 in their last five games including a 2-1 record at the Seaside Tournament with a 65-21 win over Newport, a 49-46 victory over Elma (Wash.) and 60-29 loss to Washougal (Wash.).
Unlike the boys, Steve Eastburn’s girls’ squad will take a break for the holidays. Their next games will take place at the Stayton Varsity International Tourney at Stayton High School, Jan. 2-4.