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Cowboys play well enough to win, but late breaks go Panther's way in 56-51 loss at Redmond

LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Jesse Sanchez goes to the basket for two of his eight points on Thursday during the Cowboys' close loss to the Redmond Panthers. The Crook County Cowboys played their best basketball game in at least a month on Thursday in Redmond.

However, in the end, it wasn't enough as the Cowboys came out on the short end of a 56-51 game in the first round of the Intermountain Conference Tournament.

"Both teams played really well," Crook County head coach Darin Kessi said. "I was really proud of the effort, and I was proud of how the boys stepped up."

Playing without their two leading scorers, Kaleb Savage and Thaiden Mullan, the Cowboys still pushed the Panthers to the limit before falling in the game's final seconds.

Both teams started slowly, with neither team able to score in the first two minutes of the contest.

The Cowboys finally got on the board with 5:47 left in the frame as Jesse Sanchez hit a short jumper after driving into the key.

Redmond's Blair Aamodt quickly answered for the Panthers, tying the game.

The Panthers scored the next seven points as Redmond rolled out to a 9-2 lead.

That run turned out to be critical to the final outcome of the game. Crook County came back late in the quarter, but still trailed 12-6 at the end of the stanza.

"We came out a little bit flat," Kessi said. "But I think the boys all showed up. They worked hard, and they executed the things that we asked them to do."

Both teams played better offensively in the second quarter. With Cayden Lowenbach and Jordan Graydon each hitting a pair of three pointers, the Cowboys scored 19 points in the period.

However, Redmond was also firing on all cylinders with Javin Westendorf hitting three three-pointers, as the Panthers scored 17 points in the period.

Still, the Cowboys were back in the game, trailing just 29-25 heading into the break.

The two teams traded baskets in the third quarter as the Cowboys outscored the Panthers 16-15 to close to within three points at 44-41 heading into the final period.

The Cowboys tied the game early in the fourth quarter as Lowenbach grabbed an offensive rebound, scored and was fouled. Lowenbach made the free throw, and the two teams were tied 44-44.

When Graydon pulled down an offensive rebound and scored, the Cowboys led 46-44 and looked like they had all the momentum.

The Cowboys regained possession, and Shane Kessi pulled up for a three-point shot from the corner. The ball rimmed off as Kessi appeared to be knocked down on the play. No foul was called, and the Panthers grabbed the rebound.

On their ensuing possession, Charlie Rawlins pulled up for a jump shot just above the free-throw line, and Dominic Langley bumped him after the shot.

This time, the foul was called, and Rawlins made a pair of free throws to tie the score at 46-46. A Crook County turnover gave the ball back to Redmond, and Dylan Moss hit a shot in the low post to give the Panthers a 48-46 lead.

A pair of Lowenbach free throws tied the game at 48-48.

However, the Panthers quickly regained the lead as Moss grabbed an offensive rebound and muscled up a shot that went in. The Cowboys were called for a foul on the play, and Moss calmly sank the free throw to give the Panthers a 51-48 lead with 3:46 remaining in the contest.

The Cowboys quickly tied the game at 51-51 on a three-point shot by Kevin Sanchez.

A Redmond offensive foul gave the ball back to the Cowboys, who patiently worked for a good shot.

With just over two minutes left in the game Sanchez had a wide-open look at the basket from behind the three-point arch. His shot hit the rim, bounced in the air, hit the rim again, then slowly fell off.

Both teams fought for the rebound, and the ball went out of bounds. After a brief discussion, the officials awarded the ball to the Panthers, who immediately called time out.

Neither team was able to score on their next possession. Then with just over a minute left to play, Lowenbach missed a shot, and Redmond's Rhett Haigh grabbed the rebound. Haigh threw a long pass down the floor to Rawlins, who pulled up for a contested three-pointer.

Like the shot by Sanchez, Rawlins' shot hit the rim and bounced in the air, but instead of falling off the rim on the second bounce, it fell through, giving the Panthers a 54-51 lead.

LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Cayden Lowenbach is fouled on his way to the basket in the fourth quarter. Lowenbach hit the basket and the foul shot to give the Cowboys a lead. Lowenbach scored a career-high 18 points in the game.Crook County pushed the ball up the court, and Jesse Sanchez pulled up for a short jumper in the key. The shot missed, but Kevin Sanchez grabbed the rebound.

Crook County then called time out with just over 30 seconds to play to set up a final shot.

However, the Cowboys made a mistake on the ensuing inbounds play, and the Panthers stole the ball.

With time running down, the Cowboys were forced to foul, and Moss made a pair of free throws for the final margin of victory.

"We were right there," Kessi said. "It wasn't like we did anything wrong tonight. Both teams played well enough to win. We were working hard and playing well as a team, and we still came up short on the scoreboard. That's always tough, but we are right there. We are due."

Lowenbach led the Cowboys in scoring with 18, while Graydon and Jesse Sanchez each had eight, and Kessi finished with six.

"We are a team and have to do stuff, even when we don't have all our starters," Lowenbach said. "The loss doesn't feel very good, but we will get them next time, and we are still in it for a playoff spot."

The Panthers were led by Moss with 23, while Rawlins and Westendorf each finished with 12.

With the loss, the Cowboys fell to 9-13 on the season, while the Panthers improved to 6-14.

The Panthers lost 68-58 in overtime Saturday night at Hood River Valley in the semifinals of the Intermountain Conference Tournament, while the Cowboys fell into the loser's bracket, where they were scheduled to play at The Dalles on Monday.

"I think if we play with the same energy on Monday with the same intensity and the same focus, we win," Kessi had said of the game versus The Dalles on Thursday night. "There are some things that we should be excited about, and if we continue to do that, I think that we can win two games, and we can still go to state."

That dream may now be in jeopardy as the league playoffs are on hold because of the weather.

With the OSAA cutoff date scheduled for Tuesday, the league season is effectively over unless the OSAA extends their cutoff date to later in the week, something that could still happen, as other leagues are also struggling with scheduling problems. As it is, the Cowboys will just have to sit and wait to see if their season is over or not.

Even if the playoff schedule does resume, the Cowboys would have to win at The Dalles, then defeat the winner of Ridgeview at Redmond on back-to-back nights in order to reach post-season play.

Redmond 56, Crook County 51

Thursday, February 21

At Redmond

Crook County 6 19 16 10 — 51

Redmond 12 17 15 12 — 56

Crook County – Cayden Lowenbach 18, Graydon 8, Langley 8, J. Sanchez 8, Kessi 6, K. Sanchez 3, Bishop, Ramirez, Humeston. Totals: 18 8-9 51.

Redmond – Dylan Moss 23, Westendorf 12, Rawlins 12, Aamodt 6, Jones 3, Osborne, Haigh, Browning, Chambers. Totals: 22 5-7 56.

Three-point goals – Crook County: Lowenbach 3, Graydon 2, K. Sanchez, J. Sanchez. Redmond: Westendorf 4, Rawlins 2, Jones.

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