Sisters may not be in the Sky-Em league anymore, but they are still causing problems for Cottage Grove on the basketball court.
On Tuesday the Lions (0-4) fell to their former league foe in the Outlaws (4-1) 58-55 during a heartbreaking double overtime loss at home. Sisters, now members of the Oregon West Conference, are ranked at number seven in the 4A coaches' poll.
“You know, you kind of just relate it back to life, sometimes that happens in life. Sometimes the ball doesn’t fall your way or something goes your way,” said Cottage Grove’s first year head coach Seth Hutchison. “So I’m challenging them, there’s two ways you can go about it: let it defeat you or you can let it challenge you to get better.”
Trailing by 10 points in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter, the Lions began to craft a comeback with just under five minutes to play as Dylan Graves and Erick Giffen hit a pair of three pointers. Suddenly down four with under four minutes to play, Cottage Grove did what they had been doing all game: finding Creed Lufkin down low. Lufkin finished with 18 points on the game including 10 in the fourth quarter and overtime.
“Creed played one of his best games I’ve seen all year. He was physical, he wasn’t throwing up soft shots, he was going into the guys and finishing. And you can see that tonight,” said Hutchison. The Lions had dominant play from their bigs all night as Jasper Ferguson added 10 points for the team.
“Their bigs killed us. They just pounded the crap out of us,” said Sisters head coach Rand Runco. “What a great lesson for us. I thought we did a great job on the perimeter because we couldn’t handle the bigs.”
A Lufkin bucket at the block cut the Sisters lead to one before the Outlaws extended their advantage to four after getting to the foul line on back-to-back possessions. Included in those fouls was a foul from Cottage Grove guard Erick Giffen, the only returning player on the Cottage Grove team with significant varsity playing time, fouled out. Giffen finished with six points.
On the ensuing Cottage Grove possession, with less than a minute to play, the Lions went to the post again but it was guard Jaden Doolittle fighting for a pivotal rebound and getting his only bucket of the day to trail now by just two points. Doolittle came up big on defense getting a steal with 20 seconds to play which set up an eventual Lufkin layup to send the game to overtime.
After two Lufkin buckets to start overtime, the Lions had a four-point advantage. With a minute to play, Sisters’ Zach Anderson drove the lane for a layup to cut the lead in half. As Cottage Grove swung the ball around on the next possession, the Outlaws elected not to foul and instead attempt to come up with a steal.
“These are kind of winners. They kind of know-how (to win) and I just thought one of them would make a play,” said Runco. “Total gut. Right if it works, wrong if it doesn’t.”
It worked as Sisters intercepted a pass with 10 seconds to play to tie the game at 53.
“We were holding the ball. We were just trying to be strong with the basketball. Make good passes. We really haven’t worked much on stalling, dribbling out the time,” said Hutchison. “But that’s on me, that’s not on them. I thought they did a good job… and they just made a bad pass. I was pretty happy with the turnovers tonight, we had, I think we had 12 at the end of the fourth quarter which is a huge improvement for us.”
In the final seconds Cottage Grove had a pair of open chances at the rim that wouldn’t fall and the game extended to a second overtime.
With both teams visibly tired, the offenses both slowed down. But a Sisters basket and pair of free throws put the away side up four. After a Cottage Grove miss at the rim, Sisters had the ball with a minute left to play and a lead. The Lions looked out of sorts as they let time run off the clock and fouled with 23 seconds left in the game.
Missed free throws and a Graves layup with 2 seconds left gave the Lions a glimmer of hope that faded as the Outlaws outlasted the Lions in the end for the victory.
“The truth is, on the road, winning in double overtime, a win’s a win. I’ve learned that,” said Runco who didn’t think his team played especially well. “The truth is, you win on the road in Sky-Em, which is still Sky-Em, at Cottage, we’re happy.”
The Lions, searching for their first win on the season, travelled to Banks on Tuesday (after The Sentinel’s deadline) to face the number one ranked Braves. On Thursday the team will begin play at the Seaside Holiday Tournament.