Canby was just a few minutes away from making it into the second round of the state playoffs, leading 40-39 with 4:47 to go in the fourth quarter. The Lincoln Cardinals had other ideas.
To cap off a massive comeback, the Cardinals defeated Canby 57-52 after a riveting four quarters of action on Tuesday, March 1.
Canby started the game off playing lights-out defense throughout the first half and most of the third quarter. The Cougars limited the explosive Cardinals offense to just five points in the first eight minutes and 13 points in the first half.
"I told them, 'I've watched a lot of film, I know what they're going to try to do, and if you guys buy into this and you guys practice this for the next two days, we will stop them offensively,'" Canby head coach Craig Evans said after the game. "And they were all in, they bought into it, every single one of them knew their assignments, they knew what kind of rotations they were going to run. When they ran them, (they) knew what to do. They executed to a T and it wasn't until the fourth quarter when they went away from their game plan that they got it into a sort of helter-skelter game, and that's when things went their way instead of ours."
That fourth quarter was huge for Lincoln, which despite trailing 38-29 going into the final frame caught fire from the whistle. Lincoln junior Malachi Seely-Roberts had 13 fourth quarter points including nine at the start of the period. Canby was unable to contain the scoring from the home team in the final eight minutes.
It didn't stop the Cougars from trying, though. Canby senior Payton Meyers had nine points of his own in the fourth quarter, including a pair of 3-point buckets down the stretch to keep things within two points on the scoreboard.
"I thought we did a good job," Evans said. "We didn't shoot the ball very well. I mean, Payton did, but I think the rest of the team, we were pretty off. I don't know if it was legs, the atmosphere. We just didn't shoot very well, we didn't finish very well. I thought going into halftime actually we should have had a 16- or 20-point lead the way we were executing on defense."
Meyers led the team with 20 points, and fellow seniors Kellen Oakes and Alexander Evans had 10 points and 8 points, respectively.
With the loss, Canby graduates a senior class of 10, a group of players that had come up together through the youth system in Canby.
"These kids have been playing together for like eight straight years and that's a testament to the Canby youth program," Evans said. "I've watched these kids grow up since the third grade being on the A, B or C team and then growing and getting to the next level, and they're always rooting each other on. They're always watching each other play. And even if I'm an eighth-grader, I'm watching these seventh-graders play and I know who in that group. By the time they get to high school, it's really a big family.
"I think that's a very unique thing, especially at the 6A level," Evans continued, "because we're a one-high school town. We need to see that and kids don't go off to three other high schools. They stick together. I think that's what really builds it."
At the end of the season, Canby finished with a 14-12 record and a 5-7 record in the Three Rivers League and ranked the No. 19 team in the state.
"I'm so proud of these guys," Evans said. "I think not a lot of people gave them a shot at last night. I didn't hear one media outlet pick us to win. We were not talked about as being maybe an upset. But I believed in them, and they believed in me. And that's what I loved about this team is we believed in each other, and we kept fighting no matter what."Â
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