Cowboys earn first win ever over Gladiators, still in race for Tri-Valley Conference title

JASON CHANEY/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Senior Holt Porfily looks to pass the ball during the first quarter of the Cowboys'; victory over the Gladstone Gladiators Friday night. Porfily scored four points in the game as the Cowboys won 47-38 to keep their league championship hopes alive. Crook County closes out the regular season tonight with a game at Madras. Playing in front of the largest crowd of the season on senior night, the Crook County Cowboys took care of business, defeating the Gladstone Gladiators 47-38.

It was Crook County's first win over Gladstone since the Cowboys joined the Tri-Valley Conference four years ago.

"Gladstone was 8-0 in league," a proud head coach Darin Kessi said following the game. "It's all the hard work that the boys have put in. All that extra time. All the sacrifice and the extra workouts. We are hitting our stride right when we need to."

Kessi added that not only did the varsity team win, but so did both the freshman and JV teams, as Crook County swept the Gladiators on the night.

Starting their five seniors for the first time all season, the Cowboys played inspired ball, opening up a big early lead.

The Cowboys couldn't miss early in the game as they rolled out to an 18-9 first-quarter lead.

Seniors Holt Porfily and Will Combee both hit 3-pointers in the period to help spark the Cowboy run.

"The seniors came out and did a great job," Kessi said. "They played at least half the first quarter and got us a lead."

The Cowboys went cold in the second quarter but were still in control of the game, leading 25-18 at the half.

However, Gladstone didn't make things easy for the Cowboys. The Gladiators went on a run of their own in the third quarter, erasing the deficit and briefly taking the lead at 32-29.

Crook County settled down and tied the game at the end of the period as Chase Bales hit a key three, knotting the score at 32 points apiece.

Gladstone briefly regained the lead early in the fourth quarter before Shane Kessi hit a 3-pointer to put the Cowboys up for good.

"We knew that Gladstone was going to make a run or two, that's what good teams do," Kessi said. "It was like a coming of age thing for us to be able to take a deep breath and just get back on track and find the ingredients to stop their momentum and get back on top."

Late in the game, the Gladiators started fouling the Cowboys, who made enough free throws to pull away at the end, hitting eight of 13 foul shots in the period.

Meanwhile, the Gladiators hit just three of nine free throws in the period as Crook County outscored Gladstone 15-6 to win going away.

"One of the things we told the kids before the game was that if we shoot 25 foul shots, we are going to win, and we shot 25 foul shots tonight. And defensively we played really solid. We were really disruptive tonight, and they didn't have an answer."

Bales scored 15 points to lead the Cowboys, while Thaiden Mullan scored nine, Kessi seven, and Combee five.

"I'm really proud of the boys, and I'm proud of the coaches," Kessi said. "They've done a great job. Tonight was really cool. The band was good. The dance team was there, and it was the best crowd that we have had in a long time. The boys have been really coachable and unselfish, willing to accept their roles and whatever we ask them to do, and it's paying off for them."

Lyric Warren and Drew Dix led the Gladiators with 12 points apiece.

Dix scored 10 of those in the third period during the Gladiator's big run, but he looked tired down the stretch, hitting just two of five free throws in the fourth quarter.

With the win, the Cowboys improved to 7-2 in Tri-Valley Conference play and 10-12 overall, while the Gladiators fell to 8-1 in league play and 11-12 overall.

Gladstone will still likely win the league championship, however, the Cowboys are still in the hunt with one game left to play in the regular season.

Crook County is currently tied for second place in the league with the Madras White Buffalos, 7-2, 11-11. The two teams play each other in Madras tonight, with the winner guaranteeing no worse than sole possession of second place in the conference.

A win by the Cowboys would not only guarantee them second place, it would keep alive their slim chances for a first-ever Tri-Valley Conference championship.

In order for that to occur, not only do the Cowboys have to defeat the White Buffalos, but the Gladiators would have to be upset by the Estacada Rangers, 3-6, 5-17.

Although it is unlikely that the Rangers can upset the Gladiators, there will still be a lot on tonight.

The winner of tonight's contest between the Cowboys and White Buffalos will get no worse than a home play-in game, while the loser will have to go on the road for their play-in contest.

Because of low power rankings, Madras is 24th and Crook County is 28th, that probably means that the loser of tonight's game will have to go on the road, probably against either eighth-ranked Mazama or ninth-ranked Philomath, while the winner will host a game against a much lower-ranked school.

Play-in contests are scheduled for either Friday, Feb. 23 or Saturday, Feb. 24 with the first round of the state playoffs scheduled for Saturday, March 3.

Game time for tonight's contest is 7 p.m.

Crook County 47, Gladstone 38

Friday, February 16

At Crook County

Gladstone 9 9 14 6 — 38

Crook County 18 7 7 15 — 47

Gladstone (38) — Drew Dix 12, Lyric Warren 12, Boyd 7, Nielsen 3, Pulsipher 2, Simmons 2, Ashpole, Perez, Hill. Totals: 15 6-15 38.

Crook County (47) — Chase Bales 15, Mullan 9, Kessi 7, Combee 5, Porfily 4, Kasberger 3, Graydon 2, D. Bishop 2, Kaleb Savage. Totals: 13 15-25 47.

Three-point goals — Gladstone: Warren 2. Crook County: Bales 2, Porfily, Mullan, Kessi, Combee.

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