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Cowboys build a big lead, then withstand a late Ranger run to take a key league victory

LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Jordan Graydon is surrounded by Estacada Rangers as he goes up for a rebound in the fourth quarter of the Cowboys' 53-44 victory over the Rangers Tuesday night in Prineville. Graydon led all players in rebounds with seven and also scored four points in the victory.It wasn't pretty, but the home-standing Crook County Cowboys found a way to win Tuesday night in a critical Tri-Valley Conference basketball game against the Estacada Rangers.

"It was big, because if we want to take first or second in the league, we needed to win, but it was an ugly win," said Crook County senior forward Jacob Kasberger.

The Cowboys built a big early lead, then had to hang on for dear life as the Rangers staged a furious rally, closing to within four points in the fourth quarter. However, Crook County took care of the ball down the stretch and made free throws when it counted as they came away with a 53-44 victory.

"I told the kids we have one possession at a time and to just battle," said Estacada head coach Kelly Norman of the late rally. "Our kids are young and they make mistakes, but the one thing about them is that they always play hard no matter what."

Early in the game, it looked like it was going to be all Crook County.

The Rangers played a ball control offense, slowing down the tempo of the game, but they were unable to make shots as Crook County rolled out to a 5-0 lead.

Estacada finally hit their first basket with 3:54 remaining in the first quarter as Nick Keller went to the hoop for a layup.

The Cowboys quickly answered as Chase Bales hit Jordan Graydon for an easy basket, making the score 7-2.

When Bales threw another perfect pass to Thaiden Mullan late in the period, the Cowboys led 11-4 and looked like they might run away with the game.

However, Estacada battled back, and when Gabriel Martinez hit a jumper at the end of the period, the Rangers trailed just 12-10.

The Cowboys regrouped to start the second quarter, and once again streaked out to a big lead. A Devin Bishop fast-break layup made the score 14-10. A Kaleb Savage steal and score made it 16-10. When Kasberger hit a basket seconds later, the Cowboys led 18-10.

When Dominic Langley made a pair of free throws with 4:32 remaining in the half, the Cowboys held a 22-10 lead and once again looked like they were going to run away with the contest.

However, the Rangers settled down, and the two teams played even for the remainder of the half as the Cowboys went into the locker room with a 29-15 advantage.

Crook County slowly added to their lead in the third quarter, and when Bales stole the ball and scored on the other end, the Cowboys led 39-23.

However, once again, the Rangers methodically began to battle back.

When Calvin Dryden hit a 3-pointer with under 10 seconds remaining in the period, Estacada was back to within 10 points at 41-31.

LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Devin Bishop goes to the hoop against a double-team from Estacada. Bishop scored four points as the Cowboys defeated the Rangers.Once again, the Cowboys responded as Bales hit a 3-pointer of his own at the buzzer to give the Cowboys a 13-point lead heading into the fourth.

When Savage hit a three to open the period, Crook County led 47-31, but Estacada again refused to die.

Taking advantage of a series of fouls called on Crook County, the Rangers slowly again battled their way back into contention.

When Nick Keller stole an inbounds pass and scored on a fast break layup with 1:47 left, the Rangers trailed just 49-43.

However, after a time out, the Cowboys slowed the game down, running big chunks of clock. Eventually, the Rangers were forced to foul, and the Cowboys made their free throws, pulling away for the nine-point victory.

"I think our effort in the first and third quarters led to the win," Kasberger said. "We just believed in each other and didn't let the refs affect how we played."

By the time the game ended, both teams were frustrated with the officiating as a whopping 50 fouls were whistled.

The two teams combined to attempt 69 free throws, with the Cowboys making 22 and the Rangers 17.

Estacada managed just two field goals in the final period and Crook County just one as the game degenerated to a parade to the free throw line, with the Rangers going 8-16 in the quarter and the Cowboys 6-12.

"Crook County played very well, and I like the way that they are very-well coached," Norman said.

Although he was disappointed with the loss, Dryden was still pleased that the Rangers had battled to the end.

"It hurts, but we just have to take this and carry on and go beat Madras," he said. "We have really come together as a team, and we are 10 times better than we were two weeks ago, even."

Bales led a balanced Cowboy attack with 13 points, while Savage, Mullan and Shane Kessi each pitched in with seven, and Langley added six.

"I think that Coach was calling timeouts at the right time, and we were able to just stay calm, cool and collected down the stretch," Kessi said. "It would have felt better if we would have played a little better, but hey, it's a win."

Martinez led the Rangers with 13 points, while Dryden and Keller were also in double figures with 11 and 10 points, respectively.

Graydon led all players in rebounds with seven for the Cowboys, while Mullan had five and Bales four, to go with four assists and four steals.

Martinez grabbed six boards for the Rangers, while Domingo Telles pulled down five boards and blocked four shots.

"You have got to give the Rangers credit," Kessi said. "They play hard and they keep fighting no matter what. We kind of lost our focus a little bit and took some chances on defense that we didn't need to do, but we did what we needed to do, and we weathered the storm."

The win kept the Cowboys within reach of league-leading Gladstone (6-0, 9-11) and second-place Madras (5-1, 9-10).

With four games to go in the season, the Cowboys are 4-2 in league and 7-12 overall.

Meanwhile, the Rangers dropped out of contention as they fell to 2-4 in league and 7-12 overall.

"We have two freshmen and two kids who didn't play any basketball last year in our top eight," Norman said. "It's starting to click, and we are starting to figure the little things out. It's two steps forward and one step back, but we just keep on trucking."

The Rangers host Madras on Friday, while the Cowboys host the Corbett Cardinals, 1-5, 6-12.

"Our goal is to finish the season on a 5-0 run," coach Kessi said. "We took care of the first one of those tonight. Four to go. Now, we need to refocus and take care of Corbett on Friday."

Crook County 53, Estacada 44

Tuesday, February 6

At Crook County

Estacada 10 5 16 13 — 44

Crook County 12 17 15 9 — 53

Estacada (44) — Gabriel Martinez 13, Dryden 11, Keller 10, Hagel 4, Domingo Tellis 3, Crombie 3, Dominic Tellis, Burges. Totals: 12 17-33 44.

Crook County (53) — Chase Bales 13, Savage 7, Kessi 7, Mullan 7, Langley 6, Graydon 4, D. Bishop 4, H. Bishop 3, Kasberger 2, Porfily, Combee. Totals: 14 22-36 53.

Three-point goals — Estacada: Dryden 3. Crook County: Bales 2, Savage.

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