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Crook County rebounds from opening round loss to defeat Dallas and North Salem before dropping close game to Corvallis

Shane Kessi brings the ball up the court during a game earlier this year. Kessi scored 15 points Thursday in a win over Dallas, 12 Friday in a victory over North Salem, and eight on Saturday in a close loss to Corvallis.  The Cowboys went 2-2 over the weekend in the Capitol City Classic, which was held at Willamette University in Salem.The Crook County Cowboys rebounded from a blowout loss to Wilsonville in the opening round of the Capitol City Classic to take their next two games, defeating Dallas 68-55 and North Salem 52-42 before falling 62-58 to Corvallis in the final round of consolation play.

After Tuesday's loss to the Wildcats, the Cowboys had Wednesday off to prepare before playing Dallas on Thursday.

Crook County gradually took control of the game in the first half. The Cowboys led 14-11 at the end of one period and 37-26 at the half as they outscored the Dragons 23-15 in the second period.

"We were focusing on doing a better job of eliminating our turnovers," Crook County head coach Darin Kessi said. "We were trying to get out and have energy in transition and defensively we were really solid."

The Cowboys seemed to relax in the third quarter, letting the Dragons back into the game. Still, Crook County took a 48-41 lead into the fourth quarter as Dallas outscored Crook County 15-11 in the period. However, the Cowboys were on fire in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Dragons 20-14 as they pulled away for the easy win.

The one problem area for the Cowboys was fouls, where Dallas finished 16-27 from the foul line, while Crook County was 8-10 from the line.

Kaleb Savage led Crook County in scoring with 16, while Shane Kessi had 15, Kevin Sanchez 13, and Thaiden Mullan 12. The Dragon's Carter Weisensee led all scorers with 22, while Jack Anderson added 14.

The Cowboys were even better defensively on Friday against North Salem.

The two teams had met earlier in the season, with the Cowboys taking a narrow overtime victory.

This time was different as Crook County took control early.

"North Salem is physical and they are tough," coach Kessi said. "We kind of sucked the life right out of them."

The Cowboys led 13-9 at the end of one period and 28-14 at the half. Crook County continued to extend their lead in the third period as they outscored North Salem 13-8 to extend their lead to 41-22.

With a big lead and another game to play on Saturday, the Cowboys substituted freely in the fourth period and North Salem took advantage, outscoring Crook County 20-11 in the quarter. Still, the Cowboys held onto their double-digit lead, taking an easy win.

"We held them to three field goals in the first half," Kessi said. "Our defense was really dialed in. it was the best we've been all year. We were trying to give some guys experience and we kind of weathered through that and still ended up winning by 10."

Once again Crook County had balanced scoring as Kessi and Kevin Sanchez both had 12 points and Savage added 10. Braden Vasquez was the lone North Salem player in double figures with 11.

Saturday, the Cowboys found themselves in a battle with the much taller Spartans.

Crook County held a 12-11 lead late in the first quarter, before Dallas went on a late run, outscoring Crook County 7-2 to close out the period. Corvallis went on another late run early in the second quarter, scoring seven unanswered points as they rolled out to a 35-26 halftime lead.

Crook County increased the defensive pressure in the second half and got their offense rolling as they outscored the Spartans 21-19 in the third period. Still, Corvallis led 54-47 heading into the fourth quarter.

The Cowboys continued to apply pressure in the fourth quarter, eventually closing to within two points at 60-58. However, that was as close as they would get. The Cowboys forced a couple of turnovers late in the game, but were unable to take advantage, turning the ball back over to the Spartans.

"I think we got three turnovers in a row, but then we came down and turned it over ourselves," Kessi said. "We just got going too fast, and then late in the game we missed three layins in a row. They were contested, but we still should have made them."

Corvallis made a pair of free throws at the end to make the final margin four points.

Mullan scored 18 to lead the Cowboys, while Savage was also in double figures with 11 and both Kessi and Kevin Sanchez scored eight.

For Corvallis, 6-2 Isaac Gabriel and 7-3 Jasper Reinalda each scored 15 in the win.

"I feel like we grew quite a bit," Kessi said. "Our preseason schedule is about challenging ourselves and taking on a tough preseason schedule. I think that they did a good job. We know what this team is capable of and I think that they are going to work hard and we are going to get better."

The Cowboys are now 7-5 on the year. Crook County has two more non-league games before starting the league season. The team travels to Estacada on Saturday, Jan. 5, then return home on Tuesday, Jan. 8 to take on Cottage Grove. Both games are scheduled for 5:30 p.m.

Crook County then opens the league season on Friday, Jan. 11 when they take on The Dalles in a 6:30 p.m. game.

"We are looking forward to seeing how our tough schedule is going to translate to our league," Kessi said. "We are looking to get into a groove now that our schedule will start to become a little more consistent and steady as opposed to playing seven games in 10 days like we just did. It's been a pretty good grind and there has been a lot of growth for sure."

Crook County 68, Dallas 55 At Willamette University Thursday, December 20

Crook County 14 23 11 20 – 68 Dallas 11 15 15 14 – 55 Crook County – Kaleb Savage 16, Kessi 15, K. Sanchez 13, Mullan 12, J. Sanchez 6, Lowenbach 3, Graydon 2, Langley 1, Arnold, Smith, Bishop, Chaney. Totals: 24 8-10 68. Dallas – Carter Weisensee 22, 14, Anderson 5, Courtney 4, Fennell 2, Hicks 2, Grillo 2, Lafayette, Dunaway, Banford, White. Totals: 19 16-27 55. Three-point goals – Crook County: Savage 3, Kessi 3, K. Sanchez 3, Mullan 2, Lowenbach. Dallas: Anderson.

Crook County 52, North Salem 42 At Willamette University Friday, December 21 North Salem 9 5 8 20 – 42 Crook County 13 15 13 11 – 52 North Salem – Braden Vasquez 11, Hampton 8, Montano 6, Ysasaga 6, Eskinson 5, Endicott 3, Beall 3, Swank, Sullivan. Totals: 12 15-22 42. Crook County – Shane Kessi 12, Kevin Sanchez 12, Savage 10, Mullan 6, Lowenbach 5, Graydon 3, Bishop 2, Langley 2, J. Sanchez, Arnold, Smith, Chaney. Totals: 20 2/2 52. Three-point goals – North Salem: Vasquez, Endicott, Ysasaga. Crook County: Savage 2, Kessi 2, Mullan 2, K. Sanchez 2, Graydon, Lowenbach.

Corvallis 62, Crook County 58 At Willamette University Saturday, December 22 Crook County 14 12 21 11 – 58 Corvallis 18 17 19 8 – 62 Crook County – Thaiden Mullan 18, Savage 11, Kessi 8, K. Sanchez 8, Graydon 6, Lowenbach 4, J. Sanchez 3, Langley. Totals: 21 5-8 58. Corvallis – Isaac Gabriel 15, Jasper Reinalda 15, Cahill 8, Johnson 5, Greenblatt 5, R. Gabriel 4, Law 4, Capanna 2, Fulford 2. Totals: 20 19-33 62. Three-point goals – Crook County: Savage 3, Kessi 2, Mullan 2, K. Sanchez 2, J. Sanchez, Lowenbach. Corvallis: Johnson, Law, I. Gabriel.

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