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With just two games remaining, Crook County is guaranteed a playoff game for the first time since 2008

LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Kevin Sanchez flies to the hoop against Hood River Valley in January as the Cowboys earned a two-point victory over the Eagles. Tuesday, in Hood River, Sanchez scored 25 points as the Cowboys rolled to a 73-57 victory over Hood River Valley. The Crook County High School boys basketball team has qualified for the state playoffs for the first time since 2008.

With two games left in the regular season, the Cowboys guaranteed that they would finish no lower than third in the Intermountain Conference with a huge road victory Tuesday at Hood River Valley.

"We are in the state playoffs, no matter what," Crook County head coach Jason Mumm said following the game. "We played really well in the first half. We scored 38 points in the first half. We were up 11 and we were pretty good on offense."

Although the Eagles made a run late in the third quarter and early in the fourth, the Cowboys went on to take a 73-57 victory.

Crook County led 22-15 at the end of one quarter and extended its lead to 38-27 at the half.

Hood River Valley came out strong in the third quarter, outscoring the Cowboys 12-11 in the period. Still, Crook County led by 10 heading into the fourth period.

After an early Crook County basket, the Eagles answered with three to close to within nine points.

However, that was as close as Hood River Valley would get. The Cowboys regrouped and outscored the Eagles 23-18 in the final stanza.

"They made it really hard to guard them," Mumm said. "They attacked the basket really hard, and we didn't do a very good job of keeping them in front. That's how they scored a lot of their points. They cut it to nine early in the fourth, and then we battled back."

Mumm added that the Cowboys struggled from outside the three-point line. However, Crook County did a good job of getting the ball inside, as senior post Caleb Arnold scored 23 points in the game.

Junior Kevin Sanchez also had a great night, scoring a game-high 25 points while hitting three of the Cowboys' four three-point shots.

"We really worked to pound the ball inside and go inside out," Mumm said.

It was the second consecutive game where Arnold and Sanchez have carried the Cowboys offensively.

Thursday in Prineville, Arnold scored 24 and Sanchez 22 as Crook County rolled past The Dalles.

Cayden Lowenbach also had a solid offensive game, scoring seven points.

Hood River Valley was led by Noah Webster with 19, while Emanuel Romero and Ian Searcy were also in double figures with 12 and 11 points, respectively.

Despite the hot offensive hand from Arnold and Sanchez, the game eventually came down to free throws.

The two teams combined to shoot 64 free throws in the contest.

Hood River Valley shot 69% from the free-throw line, going 18-26 in the game.

The Eagles took 13 foul shots in what turned into a wild fourth quarter.

Meanwhile, the Cowboys shot just 66% from the charity stripe, going 25-38.

With Hood River Valley fouling late in the contest, attempting to get the ball back, the Cowboys went 13-19 from the line in the final period.

With the win, the Cowboys improved to 14-6 overall and 6-2 in conference play, while Hood River Valley saw its playoff hopes take a big hit. It fell to 11-9 overall and 4-4 in conference play.

With two games remaining in the regular season, Crook County and Pendleton are tied for first place in the league, while the Redmond Panthers are one game back after falling to the Buckaroos Tuesday night.

Crook County plays its final regular season home game tonight, taking on the Ridgeview Ravens (4-17 overall, 1-7 conference) at 5:30 p.m.

Both the Cowboys and Cowgirls are at home Friday, with the girls game scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.

Crook County then closes out the regular season with a game at Redmond on Tuesday, Feb. 25. Both the boys and girls games are at Redmond, with the girls game scheduled to begin at 6:15 p.m. The boys game is set to follow at approximately 7:45 p.m.

Following Tuesday's game, the Cowboys will have to wait to see who their playoff opponent will be, as the remainder of the Class 5A leagues do not finish their regular season until Tuesday, March 3.

The first round of the state playoffs is scheduled for Saturday, March 7, with the state tournament set for Thursday through Saturday, March 11-13, at Gill Coliseum on the Campus of Oregon State University in Corvallis.

Should Crook County win the Intermountain Conference, they will host a game on Saturday, while a second- or third-place finish will put the Cowboys on the road for the opening round.

Crook County 73, Hood River Valley 57

Tuesday, February 18

At Hood River Valley

Crook County 22 16 11 23 — 73

Hood River Valley 15 12 12 18 — 57

Crook County (73) —Kevin Sanchez 25, Arnold 23, Lowenbach 7, Ramirez 5, Graydon 5, J. Sanchez 4, Nunez 2, Smith 2. Totals: 18 25-38 73.

Hood River Valley (57) — Noah Webster 19, Romero 12, Searcy 11, Hawk 5, Siekkinen 4, Arbogast 3, Wells 2, Castaneda 1, Van Dooren. Totals: 12 18-26 57.

Three-point goals — Crook County: K. Sanchez 3, Arnold. Hood River Valley: Searcy 2, Hawk, Arbugast, Romero.

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