The Cottage Grove Lions boys’ basketball team has been battling injuries to start its season. The Lions will be without starting sophomore Nathin Lemon for the remainder of the season due to an injury suffered earlier this month. The team had also been without senior Brennen Murphy during a recent tournament in Seaside. Fortunately for the Lions, the team got Murphy back for the Cottage Grove Holiday Tournament.
The Lions faced off against South Umpqua on the first day of the tournament. The game, which would be an interesting one, got off to an odd start when a Lions player was called for a technical foul during warm-ups, putting the Lancers at the free-throw line, and up 1-0 before the game clock officially got rolling.
The Lions wouldn’t let that phase them early though, building a 19-10 lead to start the game, highlighted by an early explosive dunk from Murphy, who had 7 points for Cottage Grove in the opening period.
While the Lions appeared to be off and running with the game, South Umpqua hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to cut the Lions’ lead to just six points at the conclusion of the first quarter.
To start the second period, South Umpqua junior Jace Page continued to slash into the Lions’ lead, making the score 20-17 after scoring in the paint. However, Cottage Grove again responded with scores from senior Hadyn Petersen, junior Cole Kishen and Murphy to make the score 26-17. The Lions would play strong defense as well in the run, emphasized by a chase down block from senior Brayden Crump off the glass.
Cottage Grove went into halftime leading 35-26.
The Lions would see their control of the game vanish in the third quarter. The Lancers, led by efforts from Page, senior Chase Briggs and junior Kacey Benefiel, would work to cut into the Lions lead again. Benefiel hit a 3-pointer to put the Lancers up 48-46 with 2:44 left in the third period — prompting Cottage Grove to take a timeout.
But after another 3-pointer from Briggs, the Lions trailed 46-53.
“They hit shots, they couldn’t miss for a while. That gives teams confidence later in the game as it goes on,” Lions coach Seth Hutchison said. “We didn’t do a good job of putting them away when we were up. We had it at a point where I think we could have imposed our will a little bit more, but credit to [the Lancers] for knocking down shots and staying in it.”
The Lions had to fight, and fight is just what they did. With the Lancers looking to push the lead, Crump stole the ball and passed it up to Murphy for the slam dunk. South Umpqua got on the board again, but Murphy responded with a score in the paint for Lions and was fouled, converting a three-point play opportunity, making the score a 55-51 South Umpqua lead.
On the Lions' next possession, Kishen scored in the paint and was fouled, but he missed the free throw and Murphy grabbed the offensive rebound, tying the game at 55 each. Briggs was then fouled for the Lancers on the next play, going 1-2 from the line. But with time expiring, Petersen scored for Cottage Grove and the Lions led 57-56 to end a wild third quarter.
Murphy and Petersen paced the Lions early in the fourth quarter, with Cottage Grove seemingly regaining all the momentum with a 69-62 early lead in the period. However, the Lancers responded with 7-0 run to tie the game once more with 38 seconds left.
After a timeout, Cottage Grove fed the ball to Kishen in the paint, who was able to convert a shot around multiple defenders and give the Lions a narrow 71-69 lead. The Lancers tried for a shot on the other end of the court but it was no good. Kishen got the ball on the breakaway and was fouled with 10.2 seconds left in the game.
Kishen converted 1-2 free throws, building the Lions lead to 72-69.
Had Kishen converted both free throws, the game would have likely been out of reach for South Umpqua but the Lancers could still tie the game with a 3-pointer. The Lions didn’t allow South Umpqua any good looks at the basket and walked away with the victory as time expired.
Murphy led the Lions with 30 points, as Kishen converted the go ahead points in the final minute of the game.
The win put the Lions in the championship game of the Holiday Tournament the following day, but the Lions ran into an undefeated Stayton Eagles team, which beat Cottage Grove 54-45. Following the tournament, the Lions held a 5-4 overall record.
Cottage Grove played Stayton again on Wednesday [after press deadlines] as part of the SCTC Holiday Classic, which continued yesterday and today.
“We’ve come a long way,” Hutchison said. “We have a long way to go still. Like I say to the guys, never take wins for granted. We’ll take any win we can. We’ve missed on some opportunities but we’ve learned from those. I think that will serve us well in the future. We need things moving in the right direction around league time and I think if we do that then we will be successful.”
Elsewhere, the Creswell Bulldogs boys’ basketball team [6-2] played Marist on Wednesday night (after press deadlines). The team next travels to Harrisburg on Jan. 4.
The North Douglas boys’ basketball team [2-3] played at the Bandon Dunes Tournament Dec. 28-30.
The Warriors will host Pacific on Friday, Jan. 6.