Following the Cottage Grove boys first conference win against Elmira on Tuesday, Jan. 18 the Lions two days later saw the first ranked Junction City Tigers come to town on Jan. 21. The Tigers had cruised past their first two league opponents while the Lions were trying to hand Junction City their first loss since Dec. 21, 2021.
However, the visiting Tigers would not be phased by the home crowd and had an efficient night offensively to get the win 60-44 over the home Lions.
“I thought we matched their physicality,” said Head Coach Seth Hutchison. “We took care of the ball, only eight turnovers that game. I thought we came out and competed pretty hard to start the game. But we just didn’t shoot the ball well from behind the arc. That has kind of been our Achilles heel this season.”
The three-point shot wasn’t working for Cottage Grove as the team only made a total of three the whole game. Carter Basuce led the Lions with 17 points, Brennen Murphy had 15 points and Jayden Cameron chipped in 10.
“Those games against Marshfield and Junction City were tough,” said Junior Forward Brennen Murphy. “But we all believe we can compete with those teams when we play well. I think we’re learning with each game how to get better, and I think we’ll continue to grow as a team going forward.”
In the first quarter, both teams exchanged buckets for the first five minutes of the game with it being tied at 6-6. The Tigers started to open up a lead after two threes made by Kaleb Burnett and Chris Ohman saw Junction City go on an 8-0 scoring run to close the first quarter leading 21-10 over the Lions.
Bascue and Cameron got Cottage Grove on the board in the second quarter scoring the first Lions points and the score being 25-15 with six and a half minutes before halftime.
In the 42 years Junction City Head Coach Craig Rothenberger has been the leader of the program, the Tigers are notorious for running their motion for long periods of time once they have a lead. The second quarter of the Cottage Grove game would be no exception.
On two separate occasions, Junction City ran their offense for over a minute of game-time and converted those possessions into points. Cameron scored the last points for the Lions in the first half as the Tigers held at 31-19 lead going into halftime.
“I just told them to continue to match their physicality,” said Hutchison. “I thought we competed well, I thought we rebounded, we scored it inside well. We had some lapses on defense couple times that hurt us.”
Bascue scored the first Cottage Grove points on a free throw with 4:40 remaining in the third quarter. Colby Evans started to assert dominance down low scoring on three Tigers possessions and convertingw and 1 opportunity. Junction City was slowly sucking the air out of the gym with each basket and growing their lead to nearly 20 by the end of the third quarter 44-26.
Back-to-back threes knocked in by Murphy and Cameron pulled Cottage Grove within 16 at 50-34 with under six minutes remaining.
But Junction City would close the door on any chance for a comeback bid as they ballooned the lead back up to 57-34 with three minutes to go in the game. A steal on defense turned into a lay-in for Isaac Stere who scored the last Lions points of the night and Junction City getting the road win 60-44.
“I’ve always said you’re winning or you’re learning, you’re never losing,” said Hutchison. “Hopefully, we can, start to turn the corner on that aspect of the game in regards to shooting the ball. But, as of right now, that’s our biggest weaknesses shooting the ball. I think if we, start to shoot the ball near where our goal is we’re going to be a tough team.”
The Lions will now have played another big game against Marist on Jan. 25 with the results to be determined after The Sentinel’s press time. Then will be on the road for their next two matchups against Siuslaw on Jan. 29 followed by Marshfield on Feb. 4.
17 points, 3 rebounds
15 points, 5 rebounds
10 points, 2 rebounds
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