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Crook County and Pendleton have tied for the Intermountain Conference title, but Crook County holds the tiebreaker and wins their first league title since 1948

LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - The Crook County Cowboys pose for a team photo early in the year. Pictured are — Back row left to right: Assistant coach Conner Booster, assistant coach Jeff Lowenbach, Ozzie Reed, Cayden Lowenbach, Caleb Arnold, Jordan Graydon and head coach Jason Mumm. Front row: Kevin Sanchez, Brayden Ross, Jesse Sanchez, Jrei Ramirez, Hogan Smith and Abel Nunez. Not pictured: Dominik Engstrom, Cal Pickhardt and Trevyn Smith. The Cowboys finished with a 16-6 regular season record and an 8-2 league mark as they won the Intermountain Conference championship for the first time in school history.The Crook County Cowboys are league champions.

The Cowboys and Pendleton have identical 8-2 Intermountain Conference records, but the Cowboys hold the tiebreaker.

It is the first time since 1948 that the Cowboys have won a league title, and that was by winning three consecutive league playoff games.

By virtue of winning the league championship, the Cowboys will host a first-round playoff game on Saturday, March 7, against Milwaukie/Milwaukie Academy of the Arts.

Crook County enters the playoffs with a 16-6 overall record and has won eight of its last nine games.

Should Crook County defeat Milwaukie, it will qualify for the state tournament for just the second time in school history.

The Cowboys are just 10th in the final OSAA power rankings, but with each league champion guaranteed to host a playoff game, Crook County moved up to eighth for the purpose of playoff seeding.

Should the Cowboys win their first-round game, they will face the winner of No. 1-ranked Churchill and Crescent Valley on Wednesday, March 11, in a 1:30 p.m. game at Gill Coliseum in Corvallis. The winner of that game will advance to Thursday's semifinals with a 6:30 p.m. game, while the loser will fall into the consolation bracket, where they will play at 9 a.m. Thursday.

Milwaukie finished the season with a 17-7 record and was 10-4 in the Northwest Oregon Conference, where it finished second to Wilsonville.

The Mustangs are averaging 63 points a game while holding opponents to just under 55.

However, the team has shown the ability to score points in a hurry. Milwaukie closed out the regular season with an 89-50 victory over St. Helens, followed by a 93-59 win over Hillsboro.

Perhaps even more impressive was a win over Parkrose that occurred on Wednesday, Feb. 12.

The Mustangs trailed by 27 points with 6:30 remaining in the fourth period, only to come back and take a 75-72 victory.

Milwaukie used a full-court press and hot shooting to accomplish the comeback, the largest fourth-quarter comeback in Oregon history.

The Mustangs have multiple players who can score, including Keshawn Myles, Alileyon Ford, Mason Plumb and Logan Law. The team's heights are not listed on their roster.

Crook County has also shown the ability to score points in bunches.

The Cowboys are averaging just over 62 points a game and holding opponents to 51.5.

On the offensive end, the Cowboys have been led by senior post Caleb Arnold and junior guard Kevin Sanchez.

Both players have been averaging more than 20 points a game the final month of the regular season.

However, the high-scoring duo are far from the only Cowboys who have shown the ability to score.

Senior guard Jrei Ramirez has been in double figures multiple times, as have juniors Cayden Lowenbach, Jesse Sanchez and Abel Nunez.

Senior post Jordan Graydon has also shown the ability to score.

The matchup between the Mustangs and Cowboys appears to be an intriguing one. The two teams have played four common opponents with very similar results in most of the games.

Milwaukie played Ridgeview early in the year, defeating the Ravens 67-38. Crook County played the Ravens twice during the league season, taking 64-37 and 60-28 victories.

Both teams have also played The Dalles, Pendleton and La Salle Prep.

Milwaukie defeated The Dalles 82-68 while the Cowboys lost at The Dalles 68-67, while playing without Jesse Sanchez, then defeated the Riverhawks 67-51 at home.

The Cowboys defeated La Salle Prep 50-40 in a December tournament, while Milwaukie won its first league game against La Salle 51-40, then won the second game by forfeit.

The one matchup where Milwaukie was clearly better than Crook County was against the Pendleton Buckaroos, whom the Mustangs defeated 70-55.

Meanwhile, the Cowboys struggled against the Buckaroos, taking a 67-65 victory at home, then falling to the Buckaroos 48-62 on the road.

This will be the first time in Crook County High School history that the Cowboys have hosted a state playoff game.

Game time is set for 7 p.m. Saturday, March 7.

First round games

1 Churchill vs 16 Crescent Valley

8 Crook County vs 9 Milwaukie

5 West Albany vs 12 Springfield

4 Wilsonville vs 13 Corvallis

3 Crater vs 14 La Salle Prep

6 South Albany vs 11 Parkrose

7 Willamette vs 10 Pendleton

2 Silverton vs 15 Redmond


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