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Shorthanded Cowboys survive an Eagle rally to improve to 3-1 in conference play, moving into a tie for first

LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Jesse Sanchez is fouled on his way to the basket during the Cowboys' victory over Hood River Valley Tuesday night. Sanchez was one of four Cowboys in double figures in the game, finishing with 10 points as Crook County won 68-66 to move into a tie for first place in the Intermountain Conference. Playing with one player ill and another hobbled by an ankle injury, the Cowboys survived foul trouble and a slow quarter as they held on for a 68-66 victory over the Hood River Valley Eagles Tuesday night in Prineville.

"I was pleased with the way that we battled, the way that we competed," said Crook County head coach Jason Mumm. "They made their runs and we didn't roll over. We didn't give up. I was pleased with getting stops when we had to, and we knocked down shots when we had to, so I was pleased with the way that we refused to lose that game."

Playing in front of the home crowd, the Cowboys got off to a slow start, trailing the Eagles 5-0.

The Cowboys still trailed 13-6 when Kevin Sanchez took over the game.

Sanchez, who scored a game-high 29 points, finished with eight in the first quarter as the Cowboys clawed all the way back to take a 17-14 lead at the end of the period.

With Sanchez leading the way, the Cowboys were on fire in the second period as they scored 25 points, blasting out to a 42-32 halftime lead.

Both teams got into foul trouble in the second quarter, with Crook County's Cayden Lowenbach picking up his third foul early in the period and Hood River Valley's Ian Searcy following suit a short time later.

Lowenbach, who injured his ankle in practice the night before, was never a factor in the game, grabbing just one rebound and not scoring a point before going to the bench for good early in the third period.

The Cowboys were already shorthanded, with starting guard Hogan Smith missing the game due to illness.

As a result, the Cowboys played virtually the entire second half with just six ballplayers.

Still, when Crook County scored the first four points of the third quarter, the Cowboys held a 14-point lead and looked like they were about to blow the game wide open.

Kevin Sanchez picked up his third foul in the quarter and also went to the bench, and the Cowboys went cold as the Eagles battled back.

"Smith being sick and Cayden being hurt cut our depth a little bit, and that showed in the second half," Mumm said. "I think we only played six guys really in the second half because Cayden couldn't move and Hogan was sick, but we had guys like Abel Nunez and Jrei Ramirez step up. That's kind of what this team is about is next guy up. We don't win that game tonight if Jrei and Abel don't step up."

Crook County did not score for the next seven minutes as Hood River Valley rallied to take a 47-46 lead.

"Their pressure hurt us in the first and third quarter," Mumm said. "They turned us over in the third quarter. They hit some shots and got to the foul line."

The Cowboys finally scored again with just seconds remaining in the quarter. Jesse Sanchez snared a rebound on a missed Hood River Valley shot and threw the ball the length of the court to a streaking Abel Nunez, who scored on an easy layup.

The two points by Nunez, his only points in the game, gave the Cowboys a 48-47 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

"The turnovers in the third quarter and the bad defense, that really hurt us, and they got back in it," Crook County post Caleb Arnold said. "It was a battle for the rest of the game."

After scoring just six points in the third quarter, the Cowboys once again caught fire, scoring 20 in the fourth quarter. However, the Eagles matched Crook County basket for basket, tying the game at 63 on a 3-point shot by Trenton Hughes.

The Cowboys responded with Kevin Sanchez driving to the basket for two, giving them a 65-63 lead.

After not scoring in the third quarter, Sanchez LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Jordan Graydon goes to the hoop past a pair of Hood River Valley players for two of his 11 points Tuesday as the Cowboys edged the Eagles 68-66 to move into a tie for first place in the Intermountain Conference with a 3-1 league record. scored 14 in the final period and again took over the game.

A Hood River Valley turnover gave Crook County the ball back with less than a minute to play.

The Cowboys attempted to run the clock out, but the Eagles fouled, sending Jordan Graydon to the line with 47 seconds remaining.

Graydon missed the first free throw but hit the second, giving the Cowboys a three-point lead.

However, Hood River Valley wasn't done.

With Hood River Valley starters Noah Webster and Ian Searcy both fouling out, the Eagles went deep to their bench in the fourth quarter, and the bench produced.

Emanuel Romero hit another three for the Eagles, once again tying the game, this time at 66.

The Eagles fouled, and this time Kevin Sanchez went to the line, hitting a pair of free throws to give the Cowboys a two-point lead.

Hughes then drove toward the basket, missing a wild shot from about 10 feet away.

Jrei Ramirez grabbed the rebound and was fouled with less than a second left.

Ramirez missed both free throws, but a full-court desperation heave by Cruise Hawk fell short, and the Cowboys survived for the two-point win.

In addition to Kevin Sanchez with his 29 points, three other Cowboys were in double figures.

Jordan Graydon had a solid game with 11 points, while Jesse Sanchez and Jrei Ramirez both finished with 10.

Arnold added six points and 10 rebounds for the Cowboys.

"With the drills and stuff that we are doing in practice, it is definitely helping with how comfortable we are in a close game," Arnold said. "We are knowing what to do and what not to do in that situation."

Romero finished with 13 points for the Eagles, while Webster added 12 and Searcy 10. Jack Siekkinen was also in double figures with 10.

"They are tough, and they are well-coached, and they played well," Mumm said. "That's a good team. They are going to win some games."

With the win, the Cowboys improved to 3-1 in Intermountain Conference play and 11-5 overall as they moved into a tie for first place in the IMC.

Meanwhile, Hood River Valley fell to 1-3 in league and 8-8 overall.

The win sets up a showdown tonight with Redmond, who is also 3-1 in conference play. The winner will have at least a share of the conference lead, while the loser will fall all the way to third place.

"That's going to be the biggest game for us so far this season, and it's going to be the biggest game for them," Mumm said. "No matter what happens, we've got to take care of business. That puts us in a real good spot moving forward if we do that."

"We are really looking forward to Friday and winning that game if we can," Arnold added.

Crook County 68, Hood River Valley 66

Tuesday, February 4

At Crook County

Hood River Valley 14 18 15 19 — 66

Crook County 17 25 6 20 — 68

Hood River Valley (66) — Emanual Romero 13, Webster 12, Searcy 10, Siekkinen 10, Hughes 7, Hawk 5, Albogast 4, Rose 3, Wells 2, Ellsworth. Totals: 25 11-17 66.

Crook County (64) —Kevin Sanchez 29, Graydon 11, Ramirez 10, J. Sanchez 10, Arnold 6, Nunez 2, Lowenbach. Totals: 21 15-25 68.

Three-point goals — Hood River Valley: Webster 2, Searcy 2, Hawk, Albogast, Rose, Romero, Hughes. Crook County: K. Sanchez 5, Ramirez 3, Graydon 2, J. Sanchez.

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