After earning a last-minute invite on Christmas Day to the prestigious Les Schwab Invitational, the Canby boys basketball team played through snowfall and adversity, finishing the tournament at a 1-3 mark.
Canby (7-4) — which punched its long-desired ticket to the LSI after a number of 11th-hour cancellations — faced Jesuit, Evergreen (Wash.), David Douglas, and Three Rivers League foe Tigard over the course of four days.
The Cougars learned about their scheduling changes on the 25th — a welcome Christmas gift — but one that meant they would be in action less than 18 hours against one of the top teams in the state in Jesuit.
The Crusaders (6-5), who are always a threat in OSAA play, jumped out to a quick 21-11 lead in the first quarter and never looked back; the Cougars would fall in the first game 52-68.
After a day off to recoup, the Cougars faced off against the Evergreen Plainsmen (3-6) from Vancouver, Wash. Ironically, both teams were originally scheduled to play in the Canby Tournament on December 28-30, which was canceled after the Cougars’ invite to the LSI.
The Cougars picked up their only win of their week on Tuesday, winning 65-61. Juelz Mendoza kept the Plainsmen close with a 28-point performance on 12-15 shooting, while Payton Meyers and Kellan Oakes led the way for the Cougs with 20 points and 18 points, respectively.
While Meyers and team captain Alex Evans have dominated the Canby scoring landscape, Oakes has quietly put together a solid season himself. After a scoreless season opener against Sandy, the speedy senior guard has averaged 10.3 points per game.
“I believe our offense thrives when we are all moving and playing off each other’s strengths,” Oakes told the Current. “We also have the ability to pick up the slack if one of us is having an off day.”
After Evans wenr down with an injury in Canby’s third game against David Douglas (5-3) — a matchup the Cougars would lose 68-75 — Oaks had to be sure to step up. With senior Jacob Kirwan starting in Evans’ place for the Cougars’ next game against TRL opponent Tigard (8-2), Canby faced their toughest test to date on the young season.
Canby’s game against the Tigers was a good litmus test for the Cougs; Tigard sits at No. 8 in the OSAA standings. Without Evans, Cougar head coach Craig Evans turned to Meyers and Oakes in search of offense.
Meyers managed 20 points and 8 rebounds, but Canby fell short 44 total points in the effort, tied for their lowest offensive output on the season. Despite the low scoring, the Cougars hung close, losing by only 11 to the league rival.
As has often been the case this season, Meyers, a transfer from North Marion in his first season in a Cougar uniform, was Canby’s tip of the spear at the LSI, averaging 16.8 points in the four contests. The high-flying senior is currently eighth in the state in scoring at 20.6 points per game on the season.
Oakes and center Jacob Strand each averaged 11 a game in the tourney, with Strand leading the team with 6.5 rebounds.
Despite the disappointing showing, Oakes saw great opportunities to learn from the LSI.
“Playing against the top teams in the state at the LSI is really going to help us prepare us for the rest of the season,” said Oakes. “Mistakes and weaknesses we wouldn’t necessarily see playing against lesser competition become much more apparent against great teams. We’ve already been watching film and going to work.”
The 1-3 showing drops the boys to 7-4 on the season. Canby will look to bring in the new year by getting back on track with two road games; the Cougs travel to Scappoose on Tuesday before going to McMinnville on Thursday. The game against the Indians is scheduled to begin at 7:15 p.m.
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