For the latest Canby sports news, follow @CougarCountryOR on Twitter, and catch The Canby Current’s weekly sports podcast on iTunes, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music and at cougarcountry.podbean.com.
This year, the Canby Cougars boys basketball team did not have to worry about a playoff spot. Sitting above .500 for the first time in a decade, the Cougars sat comfortably in the 20th position in Oregon headed into the final week, knowing they would be one of the 32 6A squads playing past senior night.
But, though they were certain that they would have a spot, that didn’t mean the boys could coast into next Tuesday’s playoff matchup. Instead, they got a full buffet of top-level competition, losing to No. 1-ranked Tualatin and No. 14 Tigard, while beating a determined Oregon City team.
The Cougars (14-11, 5-7 TRL) began the week on a high note against Oregon City (10-14, 2-10 TRL). The Pioneers headed into their second-to-last game determined to secure a spot in the playoffs; a win over a quality team like Canby surely would have clinched a spot in the postseason.
So, when Oregon City jumped out to an eight-point lead midway through the second quarter, it was no surprise to Cougar head coach Craig Evans or his team. As they had in their earlier game against the Pioneers, Canby could not hit an outside shot. In their two games against Oregon City, the Cougars would shoot just 3/23 (13%) from behind the arc.
Canby was able to overcome their shooting woes with unrelenting defense. The Cougs hounded Oregon City to 38% shooting in the game and rallied from a three-point halftime deficit by holding the Pioneers to just six third-quarter points. At the end of the third, Canby led 30-28.
“Kellan Oakes did a really good job defensively and Pepper was there covering the bigs down low,” Evans told the Current. ” But it really was a team defensive win. We stuck to the game plan and followed it to a tee.”
The Cougs never trailed in the fourth quarter, but that doesn’t mean things were uninteresting. With one minute remaining, Oregon City trailed by just four points, 35-39. After Dom Pepper missed a free throw, the Pioneer crowd went into hysterics when Hudson Pittam nailed a trey to cut the lead to just one.
After Payton Meyers knocked down two of his six made free throws on the night, the Pioneers still had a chance to tie the Cougars. That is until Pioneer head coach Aaron Newkirk called a timeout. One problem, though: Oregon City was out of timeouts.
That costly move awarded Meyers with two more technical free throws, which he calmly knocked down. After that, the Cougars pulled away to their 45-40 win.
The next day at home against Tualatin (21-2, 11-1 TRL), Canby would get no technicals in their favor as they fell down 5-22 early on in a 16-point loss against the top-ranked team in the state. Noah Ogoli would haunt the Cougars in the game, hitting six treys en route to a game-high 29 points.
Rather than get down, the Cougars had to face another top team in Tigard (14-9, 6-6 TRL). Though the Cougars lost a close one, 54-64, Evans was impressed with how the seniors stuck to the game plan and played a top-shelf team well, as they have all year.
“This is the best senior class in the way that they have bought into to what the coaching staff put in front of them,” Evans said. “Every practice, every scouting report, every game, they’ve been able to follow the plan. Nobody wavers from it. ”
Meyers had a productive week for the Cougars, scoring 15 points against Oregon City and 16 points against Tualatin. Jacob Strand picked up eight points and 10 rebounds against the Pioneers and tied his career-high with 16 points against Tigard.
Alex Evans, who has played varsity for all four of his years, including three as a starter, had 18 points and eight boards in his final game in front of the home fans on Friday.
Canby’s 1-2 mark on the week must have confused the OSAA computers, as the Cougs pinballed between the No 20 and No. 21 spots all Saturday. Just when it looked like the Cougs were destined to draw either Jesuit or West Salem, Canby was instead bumped up to No. 19 to face Lincoln.
The Cardinals (19-7, 12-4 PIL) boast the second highest-scoring offense in the state at 72.3 points per game and have a staggering four players over 6-8 on their roster. Though their road matchup against the Cardinals will be tough, the Cougars have been playing elite teams in the TRL all year.
“Almost every team you play in the Three Rivers League is a playoff team,” Evans said. “For our last two months, all we’ve been playing is playoff games. Because of that, we’re used to the pressure, the intensity of a playoff game.”
While the Cougars and Cardinals do not have many opponents in common (both beat South Salem by over 15 points), don’t expect the Cougars to roll over easy. Twelve games in the brutally competitive Three Rivers League can go a long way in making a team battle-tested and playoff-ready.
The Cougs will face the Cards Tuesday, March 1, at 7 p.m.
Help us build a sustainable news organization to serve Canby for generations to come! Let us know if you can support our efforts to expand our operations and keep all of our content paywall-free. #SwimWithTheCurrent!