Cottage Grove’s basketball team has been on the mind of Junction City’s head coach Liz Bolton.
“Did I sleep last night? No,” said Bolton after Tuesday’s game.
After falling to the Lions earlier this season, sleepless nights and preparation paid off for the Tigers early last week as eighth ranked Junction City won the second matchup of the season against the top teams in the Sky-Em league beating Cottage Grove 44-36.
“We brought in some big guys and we practiced on rebounding against them for two days. We came in on a Sunday morning and ran it. I mean, we have to bring someone from the outside in and they’ve got to be big, strong men to do it because that mimics [Cottage Grove’s] size. We had to go against it otherwise it’s a useless practice,” said Bolton.
The Tigers also changed their defense from man-to-man to a variety of zones to work to combat Cottage Grove’s height.
“Every trick we could pull out to pull this one off. They are an amazing team. Our 5-foot-4s going against their 6-foot-2s we have to get creative,” said Bolton.
The changes were apparent early as the Tigers, thanks to their defensive focus and double-teams down low, were able to jump out to an early 14-2 lead. In the opening 2:36 of play the Lions also picked up five team fouls.
“I think that first quarter was pretty sweet. We absolutely shredded them,” said Bolton.
In the second quarter, the Lions defense picked up and as the Tigers started struggling, Cottage Grove began to make a run.
“We changed from a 1-3-1 defense into a 1-2-2 defense. Something that, I’m sure they prepared for our 1-3-1 a lot so we put that in just in case and we needed that tonight. In fact that got us back into the game and gave us, gave ourselves a chance at that point,” said Cottage Grove head coach Kevin Yoss.
Staying in the game via outside shooting, the Lions twice cut the lead to four points in a third quarter that saw Cottage Grove's Reilly Kelty pick up her fourth foul. With a minute to go Tara Child’s layup cut the lead back to four before a Tigers three pointer and layup in the final minute extended the Junction City lead.
Beyond the point of trading baskets, the teams did just that and the Tigers were able to walk away with a victory.
“We really had trouble trying to get the ball in to Kelty. They did a really good job at taking her away. And when we couldn’t get it in to her, we didn’t have as many outside shots falling as we needed to,” said Yoss.
In the first meeting Kelty and Keara Murphy scored 13 and 12 points respectively but on Tuesday night they were held to five and seven points each.
Cottage Grove’s 6-foot-2 sophomore Ema Gardner was out (concussion) for the second game in a row. Freshman guard Mikaela Blomquist, after leading the Lions in points in the previous two games, started in her place.
“I know they were without Gardner and that may or may not have made a difference, I’m not going to speculate. But I know that my kids came to play and they bought in and they played hard,” said Bolton.
On Friday night, the Lions travelled to Sutherlin where they won 41-36. Entering the fourth quarter the Lions trained by five but a 14-5 quarter propelled Cottage Grove to a road win. Matty Ladd, who played the entire game, led the team with 14 points. Murphy had 12 points for Cottage Grove.