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Cowboys win a defensive battle over Panthers to remain in a tie for first place in the Intermountain Conference

LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Jordan Graydon throws up a scoop shot for two of his eight points in the Cowboys 44-35 victory over the Redmond Panthers Friday night in Prineville. The win kept the Cowboys in a tie with Pendleton for the top spot in the IMC.The Crook County Cowboys have had a series of close league game.

Friday night was just one more example of Crook County finding a way to win a close contest as the homestanding Cowboys edged the Redmond Panthers 44-38 in a defensive struggle.

"I was really pleased with our defense and our toughness," said Crook County head coach Jason Mumm. "That team is tough. (Redmond) likes to bang; they like to throw the ball inside. They are big and they are strong. We played at their pace and still found a way to win because of our defense."

A sign hanging behind the student section said "If you aint cheering, go sit with your mom" and the standing-room only crowd took it to heart as the gym was rocking most of the night.

Following the game, Crook County's Kevin Sanchez and Redmond's Dylan Moss, the game's leading scorers, stood near half court talking to each other.

"I just said it was a great game," Sanchez said of the conversation. "I guess it just has to do with a lot of sportsmanship and respecting each other. The game was not too much fun, but it was a lot of emotions. You saw the gym packed and it was loud and emotional. It was just who was going to do the little things more."

LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Kevin Sanchez drives past a Redmond defender. Sanchez led the Cowboys in scoring with 13 as they edged the Panthers 44-38.Crook County drew first blood as Cayden Lowenbach grabbed a rebound and was fouled. The Cowboy junior knocked down both free throws and Crook County ed 2-0. After Redmond took the lead on a three-pointer by Charlie Rawlins, Sanchez quickly answered for the Cowboys with a three of his own to give Crook County a 5-3 lead.

Crook County opened up a 10-5 lead, but the Panthers battled back, closing to within 10-9 on a basket by Moss.

However, the Cowboys scored the final four points of the quarter to take a 13-9 lead heading into the second.

Neither team was able to get their offense going in the second quarter as the Panthers outscored the Cowboys 7-5 in the period, leaving the Cowboys with an 18-16 lead heading into the half.

With Redmond double teaming Crook County's outside shooters, the Cowboys pounded the ball inside in the second half. Still, the team struggled to score as a physical Redmond defense made sure that there was someone in the face of every shooter the entire ball game.

"It was just more of a defensive game," Sanchez said. "It was more physical, whoever could make their shots through contact I guess you could say, they were going to win. In the second half we found a way to get the ball inside and they either made shots or were fouled. We got the job done."

Mumm said that he was pleased with how well the Cowboys handled the physical play.

"I think just understanding that the game was getting called a certain way and playing through it was really big for us tonight," he said. "In the past, we learned so every game that we have we take away something different. Games where maybe we shied away and acted a little differently when calls weren't going our way, we didn't do that tonight because we are still growing, we are still learning and we will even learn from this one as well."

Crook County led 30-24 at the end of the third period and opened up a nine-point lead midway through the final period. However, the Panthers continued to fight, fouling the Cowboys in an attempt to prolong the game.

Crook County struggled from the foul line, hitting just 11 of 20 free throws, but in the end, they made enough to hang on and win the game.

Moss led all scorers with 16 points and pulled down 11 rebounds to lead the Panthers in both categories.

Kevin Sanchez, a junior, led the Cowboys in scoring with 13points and also pulled down eight rebounds. Jesse Sanchez, also a junior, was also in double figures with 11.

Lowenbach added seven points and six rebounds, while Jordan Graydon finished with eight points. Caleb Arnold struggled from the floor the entire game, scoring just four points. However, the Cowboy senior post pulled down 11 rebounds and had a pair of key blocks in the fourth quarter.

The win improved the Cowboys record to 12-5 overall and 4-1 in Intermountain Conference play. Meanwhile the Panthers fell to 10-9 overall and 3-2 in conference play.

That leaves the Cowboys tied with Pendleton for first place in the IMC.

"We took a big step forward tonight," Mumm said. "At this point in the season, you have to make steps forward because everybody is getting better, so if you don't get better then you are left behind, and you can't afford to do that."

Crook County plays at Pendleton (4-1, 15-4) on Tuesday. The Cowboys return home on Thursday to face The Dalles (1-4, 6-13), the only team to take a conference win from the Cowboys so far this year. Both games are scheduled for 6:30 p.m.

The Cowboys edged Pendleton 67-65 at home in the two teams' previous meeting, while they fell to The Dalles 68-67 on the road in the league opener for both teams.

A win in either game would virtually guarantee the Cowboys a playoff spot. However, with Crook County ranked just 11th in the current OSAA power rankings, they need to win the league championship if they hope to host a first-round playoff game.

"That win tonight was big because it puts us in a really good spot where we control our destiny going forward," Mumm said. "We don't have to rely on everybody else; we take care of business and we control our own destiny."

Crook County 44, Redmond 38 At Crook County Redmond 9 7 8 14 – 38 Crook County 13 5 12 14 – 44 Redmond (38) – Dylan Moss 16, Jones 7, Osborne 6, Chambers 4, Rawlins 4, Browning 1, Haigh, Westendorf. Totals: 16 3-8 38. Crook County (44) – Kevin Sanchez 13, J. Sanchez 11, Grayden 8, Lowenbach 7, Arnold 4, Nunez 1, Ramirez. Totals: 14 11-20 44. Three-point goals – Redmond: Moss 2, Jones. Crook County: K. Sanchez 2, J. Sanchez 2, Lowenbach.

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