Here comes Cottage Grove.
Heading into the second half of the Sky-Em season, the Lions are tied for second in league and have found their rhythm. Using a 43-point second half, the Lions (12-8, 4-2 Sky-Em) cruised past Siuslaw (0-6, 4-16) 64-31 at home on Friday night.
“At the beginning of the season we were kind of having problems like flowing together as a team and we’ve been working on that a lot at practices and I think it paid off,” said Cottage Grove junior Reilly Kelty. Leading all scorers with 24 points, Kelty was dominant throughout the game to the point that when she came off the floor in the third quarter, she had recorded more points (18) than Siuslaw’s entire team (17).
“Well, obviously Reilly can take over a game,” said Cottage Grove head coach Steve Eastburn. “She has that athletic ability (and) it’s completely upon Reilly to decide if she wants to do that or not. When she does, she’s really fun to watch play because she’s just such a natural athlete: she’s physically strong, she has good skills, great attitude, good kid. But, like every player, we always want more.”
While the Cottage Grove scoring took off in the second half, the Lions grabbed a 10-point lead in the first quarter and looked like they were going to run away with the game as soon as it started. Their lead was cut to as few as five as the Vikings kept threatening to make a run but were ultimately doomed by free throws. In the first half Siuslaw shot five-of-20 from the line and finished 13-of-38 in the game.
“I didn’t think we were playing bad in the first half, we were just fouling them and the game was so disjointed. We couldn’t get any running going because we were fouling all the time,” said Eastburn. Adding, “Those guys not making free throws helped us. So, against a Marshfield, against a Junction City, Marist they’re going to make more. So we’ve got to get that cleaned up.”
After a second quarter slog that saw Cottage Grove outscore Siuslaw 6-2 (with all of Cottage Grove’s points coming from Kelty), the Lions began to light up the scoreboard in the second half as they extended their lead to 18 after three quarters of play. As Siuslaw tried to ramp up their defense in the fourth quarter, the Lions walked into easy opportunities during a 22-2 run.
“We got it going. Obviously we wore them down, then they, I guess, felt like they had to press us late there and that didn’t work to their advantage because we scored, what, three or four really quick, easy ones,” said Eastburn. “And then it just steamrolled and it was over.”
Cottage Grove freshman Gracie Arnold had 10 points in the fourth quarter and finished with 15 on the game. Matty Ladd had eight points and Ema Gardner added seven for Cottage Grove.
The Lions now have four games remaining and are locked in a battle for second place in Sky-Em. Marshfield (19-1, 6-0) sits at the top of the standings and the Pirates are ranked number one in 4A. Cottage Grove is tied with Marist (12-7, 4-2) while Junction City (12-8, 3-3) is one game back in the standings.
On Tues. Feb. 5, Cottage Grove played Marshfield on the road (after The Sentinel’s print deadline) and will travel to Elmira on Friday. Next week it is a battle between the teams vying for second as Cottage Grove hosts Junction City on Tuesday and Marist on Friday. Earlier this season the Lions lost to the Tigers and defeated the Spartans.
“The fun stretch. This will really determine how good of a team we are. We want to be playing our best basketball at the end of the season which I think we are trending towards,” said Eastburn. “If you like competition, that’s how you want it to end so I’m pumped about that. I can’t wait. I can not wait to see what our girls produce so that’s what it is all about.”