The Canby boys basketball team had more than winning on their minds coming into their season opener against Sandy Friday night. The team wasn’t playing for the fans, parents, or even themselves; the Cougars were playing for Dewar.
Friday’s game was dedicated to the memory of Matthew Dewar, a former Canby student and basketball player who was killed in a car crash two weeks ago. Basketball had been one of Dewar’s greatest passions, and he had played freshman and JV ball for the Cougars with many of the guys on this year’s varsity squad.
Canby head coach Craig Evans knew that — for him, his staff, the fans and, especially, the players — this game was going to mean more.
“We approached the game like he was with us,” Evans told the Current. “We wanted to play hard and have fun like him every day.”
With that motivation, the Cougars (1-0) dominated the visiting Sandy Pioneers (0-1) from the very beginning, jumping out to an early lead and coasting to a massive 82-58 victory that will, hopefully, set a precedent for the season to come.
Questions have swirled about how the Cougars would replace an incredibly strong Class of 2021, including All-Three Rivers League first-teamer Diego Arredondo — the first Cougar in nearly 15 years to score 1,000 points in his career — and TRL honorable mention Ben Bailey.
As expected, the coaching staff opted to lean hard on two-year starter Alex Evans — who joined Arredondo on the All-TRL first team last year — and North Marion transfer Payton Meyers. That proved to be a wise decision, as the duo combined to score more than half of the Cougars’ points in the game.
Meyers started off the game with a bang — throwing down a highlight-reel dunk before nailing an open three that sent the home crowd into a near-frenzy. A red-hot Evans added three more triples, including a shot launched from the volleyball line, to catapult the Cougs ahead to a 22-13 first-quarter lead.
The Sandy defense had no answers for Canby’s dynamic tandem, and Coach Evans was pleased with how the addition of the springy spark plug Meyers balanced out the Cougar O.
“Adding another weapon like Payton allows Alex more freedom from getting doubled,” Evans said. “You have to key on multiple threats.”
The Cougars were content to run the game at a frantic pace, getting shots and transition opportunities quickly. The 82 points on Friday were the most the Cougars have managed in a single game since 2017 — when Canby lost in double-overtime to St. Helens in 2017.
Canby continued to run fast in the second quarter, using two more threes from Evans and six straight points by Oregon State football commit and starting center Jacob Strand to coast into halftime up 40-25.
From there, the rest of the game was just going through the motions, as the Cougs built a 25-point lead and never looked back, earning their first win of the year.
Evans knocked down eight treys on the night, the most since Skyler Castleman in 2017, and tallied 25 points and two highlight blocks in the win. He was 8-for-14 from 3, while Meyers scored 17 in his Canby debut and nailed six out of seven attempts from the charity stripe.
Strand and junior guard Connor Gensman were next in line with 12 and nine points on the night, respectively, while senior wing Mikey Gibson led the way on the boards for the Cougs, pulling down six rebounds.
The game was particularly important to Alex Evans, who had been training with Matthew Dewar on a near-daily basis for the past two years. When asked about his hot hand, Evans knew exactly who to credit with the career night.
“The whole game, I just had Matthew Dewar in the back of my mind,” Evans said. “I knew he was with me. That game was for him.”
Non-league play continues for the Cougs this week as they host Southridge (2-1) Wednesday night before heading down to McKay for their first road game of the season Friday. Both contests tip off at 7 p.m.
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