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Crook County overcomes sluggish start as they avenge earlier loss to Riverhawks

LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Caleb Arnold goes over Jacob Hernandez, 23, and Conner Cummings, 11, for two of his 24 points in Crook County's 67-51 win over The Dalles on Thursday. Arnold also grabbed 18 rebounds in the game as the Cowboys improved their record to 13-6 overall and 5-2 in Intermountain Conference action.The Crook County Cowboys struggled offensively early in their Thursday evening home game against The Dalles.

However, the Cowboys finally got their offense going late in the second quarter. Crook County continued to be hot offensively the remainder of the contest as they slowly pulled away for a 67-51 victory over the Riverhawks.

"Our offense in the second half was really good, especially in the third quarter when we went on our little run there," said Crook County head coach Jason Mumm. "It helps when you make shots. We got some open looks in the first half that we didn't knock down — actually, a lot of them that we didn't knock down."

After trailing 4-2 early in the contest, Crook County led 10-4 at the end of one quarter and led just 14-13 with 3:37 remaining in the first half.

Then, Crook County went on an offensive tear that would last through the remainder of the second quarter and much of the second half.

In the final three minutes of the second quarter, Crook County outscored the Riverhawks 12-4 as the Cowboys ran out to a 26-17 halftime lead.

Crook County continued to score in the third quarter as they outscored the Riverhawks 23-14 to open up an insurmountable 49-31 lead.

Still, Mumm thought the team could have played even better.

"I was pleased with our defense at times," he said. "We did give up some easy ones on defense, though, so I think it can still be better. We gave up some layups. We missed some cover downs. We gave up some weak side stuff. We've got some guys who can block some shots, which saves us a bunch, but we can be even better if we would rotate like we are supposed to on the back side."

Caleb Arnold came up huge in the third quarter, scoring 13 of his game-high 24 points in the period, mostly on offensive putbacks and low post moves.

"I feel like we were just missing shots that we normally make, and most of the time, they will fall," Arnold said of the Cowboys' slow start. "It made it easier when I started scoring because whenever I would score on the inside, people would help guard me, and then I could kick out for easy threes."

Caleb Arnold came up huge in the third quarter, scoring 13 of his game-high 24 points in the period, mostly on offensive putbacks and low post moves.

With Arnold doing damage in the low post, the Riverhawks were finally forced to double-team Arnold, leading to wide open looks for other Cowboys.

"He's been playing really well," Mumm said of Arnold. "Hopefully he can continue. He played like that in Pendleton (a 14-point Cowboy loss on Tuesday), and he has been dominating practice, so it's good to see him translate it to the game." Mumm added that when the Cowboys have their inside game going, it makes the rest of their offense even better.

"It opens up our offense even more because if he's got it going, now they have to double down, and our shooters are wide, wide open, versus when he doesn't have it going and we are shooting contested threes," Mumm said.

With the Riverhawks double-teaming Arnold, Kevin Sanchez went off in the fourth quarter, scoring nine of his 22 points in the period.

The Cowboys built their lead to 57-35 before they started pulling starters midway through the fourth quarter as they coasted to the easy win.

In addition to Arnold and Sanchez, Cayden Lowenbach was also in double figures with 12 points for the Cowboys.

Not only did Arnold have a massive offensive game, the Cowboy senior also pulled down 18 rebounds in the contest as the Cowboys outrebounded the Riverhawks 38-27.

The Dalles was led by Styles DeLeon with 12 points and Jacob Hernandez with 11.

LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Kevin Sanchez pulls down a rebound in the fourth quarter of the Cowboys' 67-51 win over The Dalles on Thursday. Sanchez went back up with the ball for two of his 22 points in the game. With the win, Crook County improved their record to 13-6 overall and 5-2 in conference play.

Meanwhile, The Dalles fell to 7-15 overall and 1-6 in league play.

"The win meant everything to us because we all kind of had our heads down (after falling to Pendleton on Tuesday)," Arnold said. "It was really important to us for our season. But we could have done better. They got a lot of easy buckets that they shouldn't have got, but we still played good, and we had a fun game."

Not only did the Cowboys win, they got possible good news on Friday when the Hood River Valley Eagles upset the league-leading Pendleton Buckaroos.

The Eagles' win dropped Pendleton back into a three-way tie for first place with the Cowboys and the Redmond Panthers, with all three teams boasting 5-3 conference records.

That makes Crook County's game tonight at Hood River Valley critical. The Eagles, who went 1-3 to start the league season, have been on a recent tear, winning three consecutive games as they have pulled to within a game of first place with a 4-3 league record.

"I think we were a little fatigued tonight," Mumm said. "We are right in the middle of the grinder, so it will be good to have a couple of days off here and then bounce back against Hood River. They are battling for their season, and we won by two points here, so it's going to be a tough environment. It's going to be very similar to what Pendleton was like on Tuesday, so we've got to prepare. We've got to be ready. We've got to know what to expect."

Should the Cowboys win at Hood River Valley tonight, they will have wrapped up a postseason berth, while a loss would badly hurt the Cowboys' playoff chances.

The Cowboys return home on Friday for senior night as they host the Ridgeview Ravens (4-16, 1-6) in a 5:30 p.m. contest.

Crook County then closes out the regular season on Tuesday, Feb. 25, when they travel to Redmond for a 7:45 p.m. game against the Panthers in a contest that could help decide the league championship.

Crook County 67, The Dalles 51

Thursday, February 13

At Crook County

The Dalles 4 13 14 20 — 51

Crook County 10 16 23 18 — 67

The Dalles (51) — Styles DeLeon 12, Hernandez 11, Seufalomua 9, Pullen 8, Floyd 7, Cummings, Bass, Caldwell, Leeson. Totals: 17 8-14 51.

Crook County (67) —Caleb Arnold 24, K. Sanchez 22, Lowenbach 12, J. Sanchez 3, Smith 2, Nunez 2, Pickhardt 2, Ramirez, Graydon, Engstrom, Ross. Totals: 18 7-11 67.

Three-point goals — The Dalles: Pullen, Hernandez, Seufalomua. Crook County: K. Sanchez 3, Arnold 2, Lowenbach 2, J. Sanchez.

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