Cowboys finish third in the Tri-Valley Conference, will trave lto Valley Catholic for a Saturday play-in game

LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Thaiden Mullan splits Madras defenders Lewis Fine and Chapin Grote, 25, on his way to the basket for two of his game-high 35 points in the Cowboys' loss to the Madras White Buffalos Tuesday night. The Crook County Cowboys suffered a heartbreaking 74-68 loss to the Madras White Buffalos Tuesday night in Madras, dashing their hopes of possibly tying for the league championship.

"We started off slow," said Crook County senior Holt Porfily. "Obviously the first half wasn't our best, but we just kept fighting and found their holes and kind of broke them apart."

With just over two minutes remaining in the game, the Cowboys were 16 points behind, and it looked like the game was over.

The White Buffalos had held a double-digit lead since early in the second quarter, and the Cowboys were struggling to make a defensive stop.

Then the Cowboys staged a furious late charge.

First, Devin Bishop hit a layup to make the score 70-56. Then after some frenzied action, which included a series of turnovers by both teams, Porfily grabbed a defensive rebound, hit point guard Chase Bales with the ball, and Bales found a streaking Bishop heading for the basket.

Bishop made the hoop and was fouled by Madras post Kanim Smith, setting up a possible three-point play. Perhaps even more importantly, Smith fouled out on the play.

Bishop missed the free throw, but the Cowboys still had life, trailing 70-58 with 1:54 left on the clock.

Six seconds later, Madras guard Bryon Patt was called for a charge, giving the Cowboys the ball. Madras post Kahne Herkshan complained about the call and received a technical foul, the second on Madras in the game.

Not only that, the technical was Herkshan's fifth foul, sending him to the bench to join Smith.

Thaiden Mullan went to the free-throw line and hit the first of two technical fouls, cutting the Madras lead to 11. Then, before he could shoot the second shot, someone launched a partially full bottle of soda pop from the stands in the general direction of the Crook County team. Madras was assessed another technical foul, prompting MHS head coach and athletic director Evan Brown to grab the mic and give a heated speech on sportsmanship to the crowd.

Mullan ultimately hit all four free throws, and the Cowboys trailed just 70-62 with 1:48 still on the clock and the ball out of bounds.

Seconds later, Bales hit a three, his lone bucket of the night, and the Cowboys were down just five with plenty of time on the clock.

The White Buffalos immediately called timeout as the Cowboys celebrated.

"When all that crazy stuff happened, all the techs and stuff, we just pulled everyone in and we just started talking like, 'This could be our last home game for all the seniors,'" Patt said. '"This is our last time to show out in front of our crowd.' We wanted to make it count."

Following the timeout, Bales committed his fifth foul, and Patt went to the foul line for a one and one.

He missed the first shot, but Madras post Tyler Lockey grabbed the rebound. The White Buffalos missed a pair of shots before Mullan finally grabbed the rebound and sprinted down the court. Mullan missed a quick shot, and Patt grabbed the rebound and was fouled by Shane Kessi.

The foul was Kessi's fifth. Patt made one of two free throws, and the White Buffalos were up 71-65 with under a minute remaining.

LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Holt Porfily hits a 3-point shot as Chapin Grote, 25, and Cash Reese race to play defense. Porfily came off the bench to score seven points in the game as the Cowboys lost 74-68 to the White Buffalos.On their ensuing possession, Mullan appeared to score but was called for an offensive foul, negating the basket.

With 39 seconds remaining, Hunter Bishop fouled Lockey, who made one of two free throws, putting the White Buffalos up by seven, and appearing to seal the victory.

However, the Cowboys weren't done. Mullan hit a quick three, and Crook County was down just four at 72-68 with 20 seconds still left in the game.

Hunter Bishop made a steal in the inbounds play and hit Mullan for a wide open 3-pointer. Mullan's shot hit the back rim, bounced into the air, hit the rim again, and then rattled off, ending the Cowboys' rally.

When Patt made a pair of free throws, the White Buffalos had survived, escaping with the six-point victory and the Tri-Valley Conference second seed.

"I was proud of their effort," Crook County head coach Darin Kessi said. "They didn't quit, they didn't get too down. I mean, obviously, we were disappointed in that first half, but I was pleased with the belief and the effort and the fact that we figured out a way to get back into it."

Although he was proud of his team's comeback, Kessi was disappointed with the loss as it dropped the Cowboys to third in the final standings and into a road play-in game at fifth-ranked Valley Catholic.

Meanwhile, Madras head coach Evan Brown was relieved that his team had survived the game's wild finish.

"We knew they weren't going to quit," he said. "We knew they weren't going to go away, and keep battling, and that type of stuff. Our fouls in the second half allowed them to score with the clock stopped and slow the pace of the game down, which is exactly what we don't want to happen. There was one guy that we needed to worry about, and late in the game we talked about in the timeout keeping track of Thaiden, and he still sticks that three to get them within four."

Mullan, who was red-hot for most of the contest, finished with a game-high 35 points, but it wasn't enough as no other Cowboys were in double figures.

"We needed ball movement and going to the hoop," Mullan said of the Cowboys' early scoring problems. "Just finish. But we had a comeback, so it was pretty fun at the end, even though it's disappointing that we lost. I felt like I did pretty good, but I wish that we would have got the W."

Madras took an early lead straight out of the gate, grabbing a 9-2 advantage. However, the Cowboys battled back, and trailed by just three, 19-16, at the end of the first period.

Then the White Buffalos went on a run, turning Crook County turnovers into easy baskets, and raced out to a 40-24 halftime lead.

"We had a lot of turnovers tonight," Kessi said. "If I had to guess, I would say we had a t least 30 (they actually had 29), but Madras had a lot to do with that. They did a good job."

Madras continued to extend their lead early in the fourth quarter and at one time led by 22 points before the Cowboys made it exciting at the end.

What scoring help that Mullan did have mainly came from the Cowboy bench. Devin Bishop came off the bench to score eight, while Porfily finished with seven.

Patt led the White Buffalos with 18 points, while Lockey had 12 and both Chad Thurby and Smith finished with 11.

Mullan also led the Cowboys in rebounding with nine, while Lockey finished with 11 for the White Buffalos.

The Madras victory gave the Gladstone Gladiators the Tri-Valley Conference championship. Gladstone is 8-1 and has yet to play their final league game against Estacada due to bad weather in the Portland area.

Meanwhile, Madras is alone in second with an 8-2 league record and a 12-11 overall mark. Although it would theoretically be possible for Gladstone and Madras to finish with the same league record, the Gladiators would still be the league champions as they defeated Madras twice during the league season.

The Cowboys slipped to third with a 7-3 league record and a 10-13 overall record.

Although he was disappointed with the loss, Porfily believes that the comeback will give the Cowboys some momentum heading into their play-in game with Valley Catholic.

"That's definitely an upside going into our next game," he said. We've got to win, so seeing that we can come back like that from 22 points down is definitely good to see."

Kessi is also encouraged by the team's ability to come back.

"I feel like we are pretty highly motivated right now," he said. "Obviously, you hate to lose and not put yourself in position for second, but I feel like we are going to come back. All year the boys have responded the right way to adversity. We've played a tough schedule. I feel like the boys are pretty resilient, and I feel like they are going to come back."

The Cowboys better hope that is true as playing Valley Catholic on the road is going to be a daunting task.

The Valiants finished third in the Cowapa league, which is probably the most competitive league in Class 4A this year.

Banks won the league title with an 8-2 league record and a 22-2 overall record, while Seaside and Valley Catholic both had 7-3 league records.

Both Banks and Seaside earned byes into the first round of the playoffs as they are ranked one and two, respectively, in the final OSAA power rankings.

Meanwhile, Valley Catholic finished with an 18-6 final record and is fifth in the power rankings.

The Cowboys will take on the Valiants on Saturday, Feb. 24, with the tipoff scheduled for 6 p.m.

"We've got three days to prepare for our next opponent," Kessi said. "Our best basketball is still ahead of us. That's what we believe and that's what we are hoping for."

Madras 74, Crook County 68

Tuesday, February 20

At Madras

Crook County 16 8 17 27 — 68

Madras 19 21 21 13 — 74

Crook County (68) — Thaiden Mullan 35, D. Bishop 8, Porfily 7, Bales 5, Savage 4, Kessi 4, Kasberger 3, H. Bishop 2, Graydon. Totals: 23 16-25 68.

Madras (74) — Byron Patt 18, Lockey 12, Thurby 11, Smith 11, Bagley 9, Bandoni 7, Herkshan 3, Reese 2, Fine 1, Grote. Totals: 25 16-27 74.

Three-point goals — Crook County: Mullan 3, Kessi, Porfily, Bales. Madras: Patt 3, Thurby 3, Bagley 2.

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