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Crook County whips North Salem 72-55 on Friday, then falls to highly ranked South Albany 67-60 Saturday

LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Kevin Sanchez goes to the basket for two of his 26 points against South Albany on Saturday. In spite of Sanchez leading all scorers in the game, the Cowboys lost 67-60. Sanchez also had 25 points on Friday as the Cowboys defeated North Salem 72-55. The Crook County Cowboys are struggling to put together four complete quarters of basketball.

Friday the Cowboys fell behind early to the North Salem Vikings, then pulled away from the Vikings in the second half for a 72-55 victory.

Saturday, the Cowboys once again had a poor quarter, but this time they couldn't recover as the South Albany Redhawks held on for a 67-60 victory over the homestanding Cowboys.

"We can't have single-digit quarters and expect to beat really good teams," Crook County head coach Jason Mumm said following Saturday's game. "Our losses are against good teams that we don't play for four quarters."

Crook County started Friday's game pounding the ball into the low post. Caleb Arnold scored four early points.

"When we established the low post early, it opened up our outside guys and we could make some threes," Arnold said. "Inside out is our best shots and it is when we make most of our threes because when they double us in the low post, that's when we kick it out and they make threes."

The strategy worked early in the quarter; however, Crook County's offense went cold midway through the period as the Vikings made a late run to take a 17-13 lead into the second quarter.

Kevin Sanchez put the Cowboys on his back in the second quarter, scoring 16 of his game-high 25 points in the quarter. The Cowboys scored 26 points in the period, racing out to a 39-29 halftime lead.

From there, Crook County never looked back, and they steadily pulled away for the easy victory.

The Cowboys led 53-41 at the end of three periods and continued to extend their lead, despite shooting just six free throws in the game compared to 13 for the Vikings.

The Cowboys hit nine threes in the game, compared to just two for the Vikings.

After being outrebounded early in the game by the Vikings, the Cowboys boxed out much better in the second half as they finished with 22 rebounds to 29 for the Vikings.

"I was happy with the way that we responded," Mumm said. "They are a good team. They did a good job of rebounding early, and they kind of hit us in the mouth a little bit with their energy and effort going to the glass. They are scrappy and they played hard. They played fast and they rebounded like crazy and defended their tails off, but we responded to everything that they did."

Crook County shot 46% from the floor for the game, despite hitting just four of 16 3-point shots in the second half.

Meanwhile, the Vikings hit 50% of their shots. However, Crook County forced North Salem into 21 turnovers compared to just 11 for the LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Caleb Arnold goes up for two of his 13 points against South Albany on Saturday. Arnold also had 13 points on Friday against North Salem as the Cowboys split the two games.Cowboys.

"We felt good throughout the entire game, and there was no doubt in our minds that we were going to win," Arnold said.

In addition to the 25 points from Kevin Sanchez, Arnold and Cayden Lowenbach were also in double figures with 13 and 11 points, respectively. Jordan Graydon added seven points for the Cowboys, while Abel Nunez and Jesse Sanchez each added six.

Michael Endicott led the Vikings with 17 points, while Eskinson Atarino was also in double figures with 10.

North Salem fell to 2-1 with the loss, while the Cowboys improved to 3-1.

Saturday was a different story.

The Cowboys got off to a great start against the third-ranked Redhawks.

Lowenbach hit an early three to give Crook County a 3-0 lead.

When Graydon hit another three, the Cowboys led 8-4. A three by Hogan Smith and Crook County was up 11-7. When Jesse Sanchez hit Crook County's fourth 3-pointer of the first quarter, Crook County led 14-9.

However, South Albany battled back, eventually taking a 21-17 lead.

The two teams traded baskets the rest of the quarter, and South Albany took a 23-20 lead into the second quarter.

South Albany upped their defensive intensity in the second period, holding Crook County to just six points in the quarter as they pulled out to a 38-26 lead.

"We just need to work on handling the pressure, taking care of the basketball," Mumm said. "Swinging the ball from side to side, not holding it and not letting it stick with one guy. Making sure the ball moves helps against all of that pressure. They got on a run turning us over and getting run-out layups, and they kicked our butts in the second quarter."

After an early surge that gave South Albany a 15-point lead, Crook County regrouped in the second half and steadily fought their way back into the game.

The Cowboys trailed just 51-49 at the end of three periods.

"We have fought back many times before," Graydon said. "I think we can come back against any team in the state. There's no doubt in my mind. It just wasn't enough to get a team that's a playoff team like that."

The two teams then traded baskets for most of the fourth quarter.

When Graydon made a pair of free throws with just over two minutes remaining in the game, the Cowboys were within a point at 58-57.

However, the Redhawks responded with Isaiah Gilliam hitting a clutch basket to give South Albany a 60-57 lead.

A Kevin Sanchez 3-pointer tied the game at 60.

Kaleo Sugioka made a driving layup to put South Albany up 62-60 with just under two minutes to play.

The Cowboys had several more chances with wide open threes, however, they were unable to connect and failed to score the remainder of the game.

South Albany tried to run out the clock, and the Cowboys eventually fouled.

The Redhawks knocked down their foul shots as they pulled away in the closing minute for the seven-point victory.

"That team right there is a really good team," Mumm said of South Albany. "They are tough. They are gritty and they are well coached. They execute their stuff and they flat get after you defensively."

Once again, Kevin Sanchez led the Cowboys in scoring with 26, while Arnold finished with 13. Lowenbach chipped in seven, while Smith had six and Graydon five.

South Albany was led by Gilliam with 15, while Ayden Foster added 14. Evan Benson and Sugioka were also in double figures with 10.

The Cowboys outrebounded the Redhawks 31-20; however, South Albany's pressure defense forced Crook County into 21 turnovers, compared to just 11 for the Redhawks.

Lowenbach finished with 12 rebounds in the contest, while Graydon pulled down eight.

The Cowboys hit 11 threes in the contest; the Redhawks had just five. However, South Albany went to the free throw line 21 times connecting on 12, while Crook County was just 7-7 from the line.

Crook County shot 43% from the field. However, the Redhawks shot even better, hitting 57% of their shots, which were mostly in the key.

The win moved South Albany to 4-0 on the season, while Crook County fell to 3-2. The Cowboys moved up from 13th to eighth in the OSAA power rankings despite the loss, while South Albany dropped from third to fourth.

"We want to schedule these good teams to test us early, and that's exactly what they did," Mumm said. "We need to beat teams like this if we want to reach where we want to reach by the end of the year. This is a great test for us."

The Cowboys do not play again until Thursday, when they compete in the opening round of the three-day Marshfield Les Schwab Tournament.

The tournament, which features many of the top Class 4A and 5A schools in the state, continues through Saturday.

Crook County 72, North Salem 55

Friday, Dec. 13

At Crook County

North Salem 17 12 12 14 — 55

Crook County 13 26 14 19 — 72

North Salem (55) — Michael Endicott 17, Atarino 10, Carter-Varay 8, Daniel 7, Almonte Vazquez 6, Ayres 3, Dorsey-Duquesne 2, Hurtado 2, Tapia. Totals: 26 5-13 55.

Crook County (88) — Kevin Sanchez 25, Arnold 13, Lowenbach 11, Graydon 7, Nunez 6, J. Sanchez 6, Ramirez 2, Smith 2. Totals: 29 5-5 72.

Three-point goals — North Salem: Endicott, Ayres. Crook County: K. Sanchez 3, J. Sanchez 2, Nunez 2, Graydon, Lowenbach.

South Albany 67, Crook County 60

Saturday, Dec. 14

At Crook County

South Albany 23 15 13 16 — 67

Crook County 20 6 23 11 — 60

South Albany (67) — Isaiah Gilliam 15, Foster 14, Benson 10, Sugioka 10, McGlothan 7, Mercado 6, Cosler 5. Totals: 25 12-21 67.

Crook County (60) — JKevin Sanchez 26, Arnold 13, Lowenbach 7, Smith 6, Graydon 5, J. Sanchez 3, Ramirez, Nunez. Totals: 21 7-7 60.

Three-point goals — South Albany: Benson 2, McGlothan, Cosler, Mercado. Crook County: K. Sanchez 5, Smith 2, Arnold, Graydon, J. Sanchez, Lowenbach.

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