For the first time since the 2015-16 season, the Cottage Grove Lions boys basketball team has taken down their close rival to the north — the Creswell Bulldogs — by winning 60-42. Now in the past four meetings between the schools each team has won two games apiece.
Cottage Grove’s Jayden Cameron led all scorers with 22 points, and teammate Carter Bascue added 17. Caleb Lee led Creswell in scoring with 15 points and Bulldog teammate AJ Hodge added 8 points of his own.
“Any win is a good win,” said Cottage Grove Head Coach Seth Hutchison. “We’ll take a win anytime we can and anyway we can. But then when you throw in a really good opponent, like Creswell; I was very pleased with the way we played them. I thought we grew up a lot, it was a road test, it was a hostile environment, it was loud, it was pretty packed and I was very pleased with how we played.”
Cottage Grove was in their second game back after a COVID-19 pause while Creswell was handed their first loss of the season against Junction City two days prior.
The game started out with each team trading baskets, but the Lions changed their approach on defense that ultimately changed the game.
Cottage Grove’s switch to their 1-3-1 defense forced the Creswell offense way below their season average point total and only saw the Bulldogs shoot 28 percent from the field. While the five Lion starters combined for 96 percent of the Cottage Grove total points and outscored Creswell’s starting five 58-28.
“We could not figure out how to execute anything,” said Creswell Head Coach Jesse Thomas. “We weren’t running our stuff, we weren’t communicating defensively, we weren’t flying around on defense we weren’t rebounding particularly well. It was just a poor showing from what had been our norm as far as like effort and focus and things of that nature. Then on top of that, I thought Cottage Grove played really well.”
Bulldogs Lee, Hodge and Connor Hanson all drilled their first shots of the game, making three three-point shots in a row and forcing Coach Hutchison to call a timeout with a quick 9-2 Creswell lead. In the last 90 seconds left in the first quarter, Cameron and Brennen Murphy combined for the last eight Cottage Grove points with Murphy sinking a near half-court buzzer beater as time expired to bring the Lions back within two points of the Bulldogs.
The Lions hot shooting continued as Cameron hit two more three-pointers to start the second quarter and Cottage Grove grabbed their first lead 16-14. Cottage Grove outscored Creswell 18-7 in the second quarter to take a halftime 28-20 halftime lead.
“They just outplayed us on both ends of the court,” said Creswell Senior Guard Caleb Lee. “Coming into the second half they (Cottage Grove) hit a few shots, made some good plays and killed our energy.”
In the second half, Creswell’s Lee and Jack Nguyen scored the first points for the Bulldogs. But the Lions gained control midway through the quarter and grew their lead to 11 after a break-away dunk by Cottage Grove’s Brennen Murphy. At one point the Lions saw their lead grow to 16 points - before the end of the quarter, Creswell’s AJ Hodge hit a three in the closing seconds to cut the lead down to 13.
Creswell tried to get some offense going in the final quarter, but nothing seemed to be going their way on that end of the floor as they were never able to cut Cottage Grove’s lead down to single digits. The Lions were able to keep Creswell at arm’s length the rest of the game and take home a victory 60-42.
“The winning feeling is a great one,” said Cottage Grove Senior Point Guard Jayden Cameron. “It means a lot more than just a regular pre-season game. “I know personally going into the game, it means a lot for both programs. Just because of the long history between the two towns, I must say I have huge respect for Creswell and the program they have.”
22 points, 8 rebounds
17 points, 9 rebounds
8 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists
7 points, 2 rebounds
15 points, 3 rebounds,
8 points, 5 rebounds
6 points, 5 rebounds
4 points, 3 rebounds
Cottage Grove Tournament update
The following day the Lion boys were slated to play in a Sky-Em/Skyline conference crossover tournament hosted by North Valley high school.
In their first game against Mazama, the boys were held to single-digit points in the first quarter for only the second time all season and held to a season-low 11 points in the first half. In the second half, the Lions outscored the Vikings 26-15 but would fall by two points after Mazama made a three in the final 10 seconds of the game to give them a 39-37 victory over the Lions.
“That was a tough stretch that we just went through,” said Hutchison. “I think it made us tougher physically and mentally. And now we play really tough opponents in league for every single game, and I think the tournament was a good opportunity for us to learn what we’re made of.”
On Saturday, Jan. 8 Cottage Grove got back on the winning track as they took down the Phoenix Pirates and North Valley Knights by double digits in the final games before league play.
The Lions next game will be their league opener against Marshfield on Friday, Jan. 14 at 5:45 p.m.
“I think we can carry this momentum into the league is coming into every game as the underdog,” said Cameron. “And continue growing as a program with every game and every practice.”
Creswell vs Taft
Creswell’s final game of the week came against the Taft Tigers on Saturday, Jan. 8. The Bulldogs were able to let out some pent-up frustration on their opponents grabbing control of the game in the second quarter and never looking back. Creswell outscored Taft 28-5 in the second quarter and shot 46 percent from the field on the game and crushed the Tigers 62-35. Max Velarde and AJ Hodge led the Bulldogs in scoring with 19 and 8 points respectively.
“Going forward we’re just staying as positive as we can,” said Lee. “And just continue to play the way we know we can and try to get the job done any way possible.”
The Bulldogs are still in the top five of the OSAA rankings and will play another very tough opponent in Cascade Christian with the results to be decided after the Sentinel’s press time. And will open up conference play against Pleasant Hill at home on Jan. 19. After having the Scio game on Jan. 14 canceled.