While North Bend hung around early, it was the Cottage Grove girls’ basketball team outlasting the Bulldogs on the way to a 43-24 season-opening victory at home last Thursday. Leading the way for the Lions was a pair of post players in Reilly Kelty and Ema Gardner who finished with 13 and 12 points respectively.
But in the early going, North Bend was hanging around and finding ways to work past the Cottage Grove defense that often features a trio of six-foot players on the backline while the Bulldogs’ tallest player stood at 5-foot-9. Regardless of height, North Bend took a fleeting first quarter lead.
“At times (our defense) was good and at times, especially late in the game, it was horrific. Just horrific. We were standing, we were getting split. They were zipping passes through us, we weren’t rebounding on the backside,” said first-year Cottage Grove head coach Steve Eastburn. “So we will work on that tomorrow.”
But the lead was short-lived as the Cottage Grove offense began working past the North Bend zone at the end of the first quarter and outscoring the Bulldogs 13-6 in the second quarter.
“We had been struggling in practice against zone stuff so that was really good that we got to see that and we got to work 32 minutes on our weakness. And I thought we got better as the game went on, moving the ball,” said Eastburn. “You know, the one extra pass and stuff. Starting to take some perimeter shots that they were afraid to take early on. Whether they go in or not, we’ve got to take them.”
The Lions developed a comfortable lead as eight different Cottage Grove players scored on the night. Freshman Gracie Arnold had eight points while five Lions (Tara Child, Sam May, Mikaela Blomquist, Megan Schatz and Matty Ladd) each scored two points.
Cottage Grove just edged out North Bend in rebounding 34-31 but committed 31 turnovers on the day.
“It’s good to put the uniforms on, run, play somebody different,” Eastburn said of the team’s first game of the season. Adding, “I think we have enough experience through the coaching staff that (the on-court performance) will take care of itself. But let’s build some really strong relationships where, when we face adversity, we’re strong. We’re strong. And the girls, we have a really good group of girls.”
The Lions played Gladstone last night (past The Sentinel’s print deadline) and face Hidden Valley tomorrow (Dec. 6) at home and travel to North Valley on Saturday (Dec. 8).