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Cowboys edge North Salem in overtime on Friday, then are blown out by South Albany Saturday night

LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Shane Kessi brings the ball up the court in a game earlier this year. Kessi finished with 12 points as the Cowboys defeated the North Salem Vikings on Friday. Then Kessi scored six more as Crook County lost to the South Albany Redhawks on Saturday. The Cowboys are currently 3-1 on the season and will play their first home game tonight when they host the La Pine Hawks in a 7 p.m. contest. The Crook County Cowboys played just well enough to win on Friday against North Salem, then struggled Saturday as they were blown out by South Albany in a pair of weekend road basketball games.

"Obviously, we were very pleased that we found a way to win a hard-fought, physical game last night," Crook County head coach Darin Kessi said following Saturday's loss at South Albany. "Then, Saturday we looked like a team coming off of a hard-fought, difficult, overtime game, and we just didn't match their intensity."

On Friday night, the Cowboys opened a first-half lead, then survived a second-half North Salem rally before finding a way to win 51-50 in overtime.

Saturday was another story as South Albany broke open a close game with a big second quarter, then continued to roll as they cruised to a 79-46 victory over the Cowboys.

Friday versus North Salem

Against North Salem, the Cowboys led 11-8 at the end of one quarter and held a 22-16 halftime lead.

However, the Vikings closed the gap in the third quarter, outscoring Crook County 15-12 as they closed to within three points at 34-31.

North Salem continued to push the pace in the fourth quarter, eventually tying the game at 42-42.

Both teams had a chance to win the game in the closing seconds, but both teams misfired.

Crook County had a chance to win the game with a sideline out-of-bounds play with just seconds left in the contest. However, the Cowboys turned the ball over with three seconds remaining.

North Salem quickly called time out and set up a last-second play of their own. However, after getting the ball inbounds, the Vikings traveled, turning the ball back over to the Cowboys with a second remaining in regulation.

Kevin Sanchez heaved a desperation shot up from behind the half-court line at the buzzer, but the shot missed, and the game went into overtime.

"It was kind of sloppy at the end of regulation," Crook County assistant coach Jason Mumm said. "Both teams stepped up defensively at the end of the game, and we didn't execute very well on our sideline out of bounds, and they didn't execute very well on their out-of-bounds play, and it ended up going into overtime."

Once in overtime, the Cowboys did just enough to win.

Crook County hit five of six free throws in the overtime period. In addition, Thaiden Mullan, who scored just three points in regulation, hit a pair of key baskets.

Mullan, who had been in foul trouble the entire game and had spent most of the time on the bench, was huge in the overtime, going 3-for-3 from the foul line and hitting the only two baskets the Cowboys had in the overtime period.

"He got two fouls quick, so he hardly played in the first half," Mumm said of Mullan. "But he made a huge shot with nine seconds left in overtime."

North Salem had one final opportunity to score but was unable to get a good look as Crook County's defense was outstanding.

"We didn't play as well as we thought we should have," Mumm said. "But we did get stops when we needed them, and we got baskets when we needed them. It was just a really gritty win. We didn't make shots. We didn't move the ball really well, but when we needed to, we got stops. Defensively, we were really good."

Crook County's Kaleb Savage led all scorers with 14, while Shane Kessi added 12. Mullan finished with nine points, while Jordan Graydon pitched in with seven, and Cayden Lowenbach finished with five.

Zach Sullivan led North Salem in scoring with 12, while Phavor Swank finished with eight, and Andre Beall and Braden Vasquez each added seven points.

"At the end of the game, we talked about if you want to be a good team, you have to win games like tonight's because you are not going to play well every night," Mumm said. "You are not going to shoot the ball well every single game, and you are not going to do everything perfect every single game, so if you can win when you don't play well, that gives us a lot of confidence going forward, knowing that we can win games like this."

Crook County 51, North Salem 50

Friday, December 7

At North Salem

Crook County 11 11 12 8 9 — 51

North Salem 8 8 15 11 8 — 50

Crook County — Kaleb Savage 14, Kessi 12, Mullan 9, Graydon 7, Lowenbach 5, J. Sanchez 4, Bishop, Langley, K. Sanchez, Humeston. Totals: 16 12-17 51.

North Salem — Zach Sullivan 12, Swank 8, Wasquez 7, Beall 7, Ramero 6, Hampton 4, Ysasaga 4, Eskinson 2, Davis. Totals: 18 11-20 50.

Three-point goals — Crook County: Savage 3, Kessi 2, Lowenbach, Mullan. North Salem: Sullivan 2, Wasquez 1.

Saturday versus South Albany

After taking a difficult win on Friday, the Cowboys never seemed to get their offense rolling on Saturday.

"The things that we wanted to do, they did to us," coach Kessi said. "They got out and established the tempo. They attacked offensively and forced us into breakdowns defensively, and they kicked the ball for open shots."

Kessi added that the Cowboys got into early foul trouble, and South Albany took advantage.

After leading just 13-10 at the end of the first period, the Redhawks outscored Crook County 27-13 in the second quarter to take a 40-23 halftime lead.

Kessi noted that much of the damage was done at the foul line as the Redhawks repeatedly went to the charity stripe in the quarter, scoring nine points from the free-throw line.

South Albany continued to pull away in the third quarter, outscoring Crook County 23-13 as they put the game out of reach.

With South Albany leading 63-36 heading into the final period, both teams played their bench in the final period as the Redhawks outscored the Cowboys 16-10.

"They were more focused and executed better than us," Kessi said. "We just weren't very good tonight."

South Albany's Isaiah Gilliam led all scorers with 20 points, while Arthur Benjamin Mercado and Eli Nafziger were also both in double figures with 10 and 13 points, respectively.

Once again, Savage led the Cowboys in scoring with 12, while Lowenbach finished with seven, Kessi with six, and Kevin Sanchez with five.

The loss was the first for the Cowboys this season. The team is now 3-1 on the year and has dropped from first to third in the OSAA power rankings.

Meanwhile, South Albany, which has been to the state tournament each of the last two years, improved to 4-0 and moved up to first in the latest power rankings.

"I think it's humbling and it shows us that it's what you do on the floor that matters," Kessi said. "It isn't what other people say about you or what the OSAA says about you. You have got to walk on the court and play to improve every day. I think the learning is that we don't want to feel like this again. We don't want to show up and let this happen again. It shows us that we still have a long ways to go to reach our goals."

The Cowboys finally play a home game tonight when they host the La Pine Hawks (2-2) in a 7 p.m. game.

"I think it's not going to be good for La Pine that we got beat by 33," Kessi said. "I can tell you that much. I think that we are going to be pretty excited to come home, and hopefully people will be excited to come out and see what we have to offer and see how we respond after a blowout loss."

Following tonight's game, Crook County goes on the road again as they compete in the Marshfield Holiday Classic Basketball Tournament. The three-day tournament begins Thursday with the Cowboys taking on La Salle Prep (1-1) in a 6:30 p.m. game at Southwestern Oregon Community College in Coos Bay.

South Albany 79, Crook County 46

Saturday, December 8

At South Albany

Crook County 10 13 13 10 — 46

South Albany 13 27 23 16 — 79

Crook County — Kaleb Savage 12, Lowenbach 7, Kessi 6, K. Sanchez 5, Langley 4, Ramirez 3, Arnold 2, Mullan 2, Graydon 2, Humeston 2, Chaney 1, Smith, J. Sanchez. Bishop. Totals: 16 9-14 46.

South Albany—Isaiah Gilliam 20, Nafziger 13, Mercado 10, Patrick 9, Foster 6, Swanson 6, McGlothan 5, Sugioka 3, Myers 3, Lyons-Lopez 3, Simons 1, Benson, Cosler. Totals: 2716-26 79.

Three-point goals — Crook County: Savage 4, K. Sanchez. South Albany: Mercado 2, Foster 2, Patrick 2, Lyons-Lopez, McGlochan, Sugioka.

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