Cougars defeated Rogue Valley Adventist Saturday to reach elite eight in Baker

PMG PHOTO: DEREK WILEY - Country Christian freshman Annie Bafford scored six points in the fourth quarter of Saturday's victory against Rogue Valley Adventist Academy in Medford.

Country Christian is going back to Baker.

The Cougars defeated Rogue Valley Adventist 39-35 Saturday night in Medford to advance to the Class 1A girls basketball state tournament.

"That's pretty crazy with how young this team is," longtime Country Christian coach Russell Halverson said. "I'm super stoked, thrilled actually. For this young of a team to get there, I'm still kind of in shock about it."

After making two 3-pointers to take an 8-2 lead to open the game, the Cougars went cold as freshman Annie Bafford, who scored 26 points in Country Christian's first round 69-52 victory over South Wasco County, picked up her second foul and went to the bench.

"We were struggling to make buckets, and close buckets, like lay-ins, rebound putbacks and stuff," Halverson said. "They kept rimming out. It was just not a visitor friendly gym. We struggled to make baskets. We didn't hit another outside shot the rest of the game. We didn't hit anything. We had to get to the rim."

Down six points at halftime, the Cougars also had to speed Rogue Valley up.

"Their style, they're really disciplined and they grind through these half court sets on offense," Halverson said. "That's why the score was so low. They would hold possession and just run through these sets until they got the shot they wanted. You had to be really disciplined on defense."

In the second half, Country Christian began trapping the Hawks at half court.

"It sped them up enough that we had a few more offensive possessions and allowed them not to execute us to death, and allowed us to be in it and stay close," Halverson said.

The Cougars also started storming the paint.

"We figured we better get as high as percentage of shots as we can," Halverson said.

Country Christian did not take the lead until about 1:15 to go. Bafford then scored on 3-point play on a putback to put the Cougars up by four. The play also fouled out Rogue Valley's best player — freshman Emma Bishoff.

"She was giving us trouble," Halverson said of Bishoff. "She was rebounding, blocking shots, and it was hard for us. By pounding it in the paint, she was having to do a lot of work in there."

After the Hawks hit a deep 3-pointer to get back within a point, Bafford, who scored six of her nine points in the fourth quarter, made critical free throws to seal the victory.

Sophomore Lizzy Grandle scored 18 points to lead Country Christian's offense. With Bafford in foul trouble, junior Lizzy Shelton came off the bench to help the Cougars defend Bishoff.

"I thought she did phenomenal, just rebounding and defending her (Bishoff)," Halverson said of Shelton. "She played great."

Rouge Valley, champions of the Mountain Valley League, entered the contest on a 16-game winning streak.

"They just kept battling," Halveron said of the Cougars. "I thought that was a pretty impressive win on their home court."

Country Christian will open the state tournament Wednesday against No. 1 Crane (26-0).

The Mustangs defeated Country Christian 65-33 on Jan. 3.

"They're a juggernaut," Halveron said of Crane. "If we go over there and play to the best of our ability and compete well, and If I can see these kids continue to battle and work hard, that's what I'm looking for. The fact that they're in the elite eight and have a chance to battle with these teams, I would just be thrilled to see them bring home some sort of hardware. That would be icing on the cake."

Derek Wiley
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