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Country Christian boys overcomes Monday loss to show composure and timely scoring in win over NCCS

Cold shooting to open the game left the Country Christian boys basketball team in a hole it just couldn't quite climb out of. But they almost did.

The result was a 45-43 road loss at Perrydale on Dec. 20.

"Some timely shots by Perrydale in the second quarter helped them hold their lead going into the second half at 22-19," coach Dawson Nofziger said. "We ran into foul trouble in the second half."

Early in the fourth quarter, both Malachi O'Connor and Christian Griffith fouled out of the game, but the Cougars responded down by 12 points.

COURTESY PHOTO: MINDAY GRECO - The Country Christian boys basketball team had to scrape and claw their way back into their Dec. 20 game at Perrydale. They had a shot to win the game at the end, but fell short by a 45-43 score.

"Offense and some defensive pressure turned the momentum halfway through the fourth," Nofziger explained. "The boys fought their way back to make it a game with just under a minute left. Big shots by Matthew Weissenbrunner and Rhett Johnson got us back in the game with less than a minute to play."

Down two with 1.2 seconds on the clock, Johnson made a big defensive play, getting a finger on an inbounds play that eventually went off a Pirate player. The Cougars had a chance.

"After a well-executed inbounds play, we got a great look at the basket as time expired, but the ball couldn't find the hoop," Nofziger said. "It was a hard-fought defeat but the way the boys finished the game with max effort, it was all a coach could ask for. For our bench guys to step up and make big plays late in the game is what the team needed. I was proud of the whole team."

Weissenbrunner would end the game with 10 points and Johnson eight.

Country Christian 59, North Clackamas Christian 54

It was the very definition of one of sports oldest cliches – a barn burner. At least that's what Country Christian coach Dawson Nofziger thought about the Cougar's 59-54 win over North Clackamas Christian on Dec. 21. "It was a barn-burner of a game in every sense," Nofziger said. The two squads traded punches in the first quarter. Country Christian's Matthew Weissenbrunner was landing some devastating blows of his own, draining a trio of triples and scoring 11 points in the opening quarter. "The goal was to wear out the Saints with constant pressure defensively, but despite that pressure they tied things up at 15-15 going into the second quarter," Nofziger said. Fortunately, the Cougar offense began to click in the second quarter as quality looks at the basket came more frequently and the team finished them. Rhett Johnson had seven of his 13 points in the second quarter primarily through "owning the paint and getting great passes from his guards," Nofziger said. "Our team defense led the way as we held the Saints to six points compared to our 17 for a 32-21 halftime lead."

The Saints and Cougars sparred evenly in the third, with NCCS drawing three points closer. "The fourth quarter was going to be a grind, as we know," Nofziger said. "Grant Nelson's (NCCS) teams never give up without a fight." The Saints found their rhythm offensively in the final quarter and would drop five three-pointers on the Cougars, chipping away at the lead. "Key shots by Jaxon Bafford (10 points) and Elijah Wallbaum (3 points) kept the score just in our favor until the last minute," Nofziger said. "A couple of turnovers led to a two-point lead by the Saints with just under a minute to play. We were patient and in three consecutive possessions we hit a lay-up by Johnson to tie, a massive three by Cooper Halverson (team high 14 points) to regain the lead, and another lay-up by Johnson to win by five. "I couldn't be prouder of the boy's discipline and composure after losing the lead late in the game like that," the coach added. "Our rebounding throughout the night was great and especially as NCCS missed their last few shots and we snagged every board on the floor. A true barn-burner in every sense and a great team win to go up 2-0 in Valley 10 League play."

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