The Creswell boys basketball team found itself within reach of getting a much-needed win after losing to Cascade Christian earlier in the week 57-30. News came in for the Bulldogs that starter Caleb Lee was lost for the remainder of the season due to an ankle injury suffered in the Cascade Christian game.
The North Douglas Warriors however have only lost two games in 2022 one of which was to Riddle on Jan. 21.
In a hard-fought contest on both sides, the Warriors would rally after being down at halftime to top the Bulldogs 50-49.
“I know Creswell was missing a couple of their guys, but they’re still a strong team. And we knew it would be a tough game no matter what,” said North Douglas Head Coach Jesse Leman. “We also felt like we could win that game. So it was good to show what we’re capable of.”
AJ Hodge was the lone Bulldog in double figures 18 points and bringing down 7 rebounds but teammate Tyler Whitson also played well scoring 9 points in his first start of the season. Ray Gerrard was a force in the paint scoring 17 points and grabbing 13 rebounds for the double-double while other Warrior teammates Logan Gant and William Duncan each added 9 points.
“I didn’t think we played that poorly,” said Creswell Head Coach Jesse Thomas. “We didn’t shoot the ball very well, we had plenty of opportunities at the end of the game and just like all of the close games it comes down to execution at the end. And can we make the right play at the right time and get a stop on defense — and we haven’t been able to string that together to consistently do that.”
North Douglas jumped out to the early 9-3 lead midway through the opening quarter after Duncan knocked down a three. But Hodge brought Creswell back in the final two minutes of the quarter scoring five points and grabbing the first Bulldog lead 12-11.
Max Velarde got Creswell’s lead to eight with 2:50 left before halftime following a pair of made free throws. North Douglas continued to battle and scored six points in the final ninety seconds before the break to trim Creswell’s lead to 28-25 at halftime.
“I was just imploring the guys to pick up the effort,” said Leman. “Because I felt like Creswell’s effort was better than ours in the first half. They were beating us to loose balls and the little things that in an evenly matched game can be the difference in winning.”
Hodge continued his shooting display making the first Creswell bucket of the second half and got the Bulldogs lead back up to five. In the ensuing minutes, North Douglas took their first lead since the first half after Gant made a three to give the Warriors a slim 33-32 lead. The Warriors led at the end of the third quarter 37-35 as the tension continued to rise in the gym.
After back-to-back Warrior buckets, Hodge again tied the game at 42 with just over six minutes remaining in the game.
Gerrard asserted himself in the fourth quarter scoring four points and setting up his teammate Gant for the score as North Douglas finally gained some separation 48-42 with 3:20 left. In the two final minutes, Creswell ramped up the full-court pressure and converted two steals into layups from Velarde and Jack Nguyen as North Douglas’ lead was only two 48-46.
The tension was almost palpable with North Douglas clinging to a four-point lead in the last minute of regulation.
Following a Creswell timeout at eight seconds, Whitson knocked down a corner three with four seconds left to cut the lead down to one, but the Bulldogs didn’t have any more time as the final buzzer sounded and the Warriors held on for the win 50-49.
“I was just happy for the boys,” said Leman. “You know, having 24 turnovers and you win — that doesn’t happen very often. I was certainly hoping that it was a turning point for a lot of the boys seeing 3A competition and knowing we can play with those guys.”