The Crook County High School girls basketball team is off to their best start in years.
The Cowgirls are now 3-0 after defeating McMinnville on the road on Wednesday, then dispatching Lebanon and Bend at the Central Oregon Tip-Off Classic in Ridgeview on Friday and Saturday respectively.
On Wednesday, the Cowgirls were in control from the beginning as they rolled past the Grizzlies 56-38. Friday was a different story as the Cowgirls had to come from behind in the final minute of their contest against Lebanon to take a 54-52 victory. Then, on Saturday, Crook County opened up a nine-point lead in the fourth quarter, before making a series of free throws down the stretch as they rolled to a 43-32 victory over the Lava Bears.
"It's just kind of a dream come true, I believed in them, but they are believing in themselves, so it is really really fun," second-year head coach Bob Boback said Saturday after their third victory of the week. "I coached 21 years in the Seattle area and I've already told my friends up there that this is my most favorite team that I've ever coached because the girls are very, very coachable and they just work so hard."
The Cowgirls controlled the entire game against McMinnville, playing solid defense and putting three players in double figures on offense.
Grace Brooks led the way with 17 points and 12 rebounds, while Emma Bales finished with 15 points and 14 rebounds. Not to be outdone, Katelynn Weaver added 14 points and 11 steals. McKenzie Jonas also had a solid game, finishing with seven points and four steals.
The win looks even more impressive when you consider that over the weekend McMinnville rebounded to defeat North Salem 44-22.
Friday, the Cowgirls struggled with turnovers early in the contest, and trailed 16-12 at the end of the first quarter. Lebanon continued to lead in the second quarter, pushing their lead to 32-26 at the half.
The Warriors increased their lead to 37-28 before the Cowgirls finally started to make a run late in the third quarter. Lebanon led 41-37 at the end of three periods, and still led 50-46 with just over a minute left in the contest.
A McCall Woodward three-pointer, her only points of the game, closed the Cowgirls to within 50-49 with 1:03 remaining. Lebanon's Abby McDonough answered with a bucket, extending the Warriors lead to 52-49 with 48 seconds remaining. A Brooks three-pointer tied the game at 52-52 before Woodward stole the ball and Bales scored to give the Cowgirls their first lead since they led 2-0 to start the game.
A Brooks steal then sealed the win for the Cowgirls.
Bales had a monster game, finishing with 21 points, 18 rebounds and three steals. Weaver also had a huge game, picking up six steals and and 21 points. Brooks chipped in with seven points.
Hallie Jo Miller led the Warriors with 14 points while Emma Honeycutt had 12 and Bailey Donohue 10.
However, the Cowgirls went to a diamond and one defense in the second half and Miller did not score a point in the half with Lauren Papke playing stifling defense on her.
"Lebanon, give them some credit, we had to switch some things up against them," Boback said. "We had to finally go to the diamond to shut them down. Lauren Papke played great defense against Lebanon. If she's not shutting down that girl on Lebanon yesterday, we lose, and she shut her out in the second half when we went to the diamond and she guarded her."
On Saturday, the Cowgirls struggled to score early on, but that didn't matter as the Crook County defense totally shut down the Lava Bears.
Crook County played a triangle and two with Papke and Jonas guarding the Lava Bears' two guards and the remainder of the Cowgirl team playing a tight zone.
The strategy worked as the Cowgirls led 8-6 at the end of one period and 23-13 at the half. In a defensive third quarter, the Lava Bears outscored the Cowgirls 5-3, but that left Crook County still holding a 26-18 lead.
Crook County still led by nine with about two minutes left to play when the Lava Bears started fouling. The Cowgirls hit just enough free throws to extend their lead to double figures as they came away with the win.
Boback pointed out that Jonas guarded Bend's leading scorer the entire game, holding her to a single point in the contest.
"Lauren and McKenzie did a great job of doing their job and everybody is playing with the team first, so that's really exciting," Boback said. "I'm just kind of overwhelmed right now. I'm very very pleased with where we are at and how things are shaping up. Now we've got to just not get too happy and remember that we have to keep on competing and playing hard because every game is going to be a tough game."
Brooks led the Cowgirl offense in the game with 12 points, while Weaver and Bales each finished with 11, Papke added five and Jonas four.
Crook County plays at Sisters on Wednesday in a 7 p.m. game, then travel to South Albany on Saturday for a 5:30 p.m. contest.
The team's first home game is scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 15 when the Cowgirls take on the Summit Storm. That game is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.
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