Canby Stifles South Salem in Clash of Undefeateds

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It was another impressive performance by the Canby boys basketball team (4-0) Tuesday night as they stifled visiting South Salem to hand the Saxons (2-1) their first loss of the season — and extend the Cougs’ hottest start in more than 15 years.

Senior transfer Payton Meyers continued his excellent first season in a Cougar uniform, leading the home team with a game-high 22 points, a pair of boards, a steal and a block.

The high-flying Payton Meyers led both teams with 22 points. Photos by Jordy Villagomez.

Meyers struggled a bit in the first half, but came alive in the second, nailing two 3-pointers and throwing down a couple of dunks in transition.

“We’re a great shooting team, and we know it’s just going to take time for somebody to get that hot hand,” head basketball coach Craig Evans said afterward. “So we were just waiting, being patient. Once Payton hit one, we were like, ‘Let’s go,’ and just started feeding him. I really think that’s who we are as a team: very unselfish.”

Dominik B. Pepper and Jacob Strand added 13 and 10, respectively, with Strand adding eight rebounds to narrowly miss posting his second double-double of the season.

Dominik B. Pepper was second on the team in scoring, chipping in 13 in the balanced offensive attack. Photos by Jordy Villagomez.

For senior guard Alex Evans, it was his first game this year in which he had fewer than 10 points and didn’t finish first or second on the team in scoring — but he filled up the stat sheet in other ways, posting seven points, eight boards and a season-high nine assists.

“He’s the point guard; he’s our floor general out there,” Evans said. “He’s no always just looking to score. He does the little things that may not even show up in the box score but really help get the job done.”

By way of example, the coach pointed out the three offensive fouls Alex Evans drew by taking charges early in the game, which he credited with helping to change the momentum of the contest and deflate the competition.

Speedster Kellan Oakes added seven for the Cougs. Photos by Jordy Villagomez.

Charlie Rapp led the Saxons with 15 points, and Greg Comer added 13.

Canby led 14-10 after one quarter and never relinquished the momentum, adding 14 more in the second, 16 in the third and 19 in the final frame to cruise to victory. Meanwhile, South Salem was held to fewer than 12 points in three out of four quarters, as the Cougar defense kept their opponent under 50 for the second straight game.

“They’re a really young team, and I think that showed a little bit,” Evans said. “They’re going to get a lot better throughout the year. But I think our maturity showed when they tried to press us and speed the game up, we just slowed down and dictated the pace even more. That really frustrated them.”

Meyers was fed for a couple of dunks in transition during the second half, cementing the Cougs’ momentum in the victory. Photos by Jordy Villagomez.

The 4-0 start is Evans’ best in his 12 years at the helm of the Canby Cougar boys basketball program, and he is quick to credit the players for their unselfishness and buy-in.

“This team is really in it for each other,” he explained. “They’re in it for the program; they trust the coaching staff. When we call timeout, they’re there to listen to me and the other coaches. They’re not second-guessing anything or listening to outside noise.

“There’s no ego nobody out there. That’s the really unique thing with these boys: They’re just in it for each other, and it’s really fun to see.”

Jacob Kirwan had two points and two assists in one quarter of play for the Cougs. Photos by Jordy Villagomez.

Next up for the Cougs will be a rematch with Southridge High School (4-2) at the Lakeridge Tournament Friday. Canby downed the Skyhawks, 77-68, in their first meeting last week — but it was their toughest outing of the young season so far.

“They were up seven in the fourth quarter,” he said. “They’re a really good matchup for us. They’re a good team, well-coached. We’re in for another battle. And we’re going to be at a neutral court this time, so we won’t have the crowd on our side. We’ll have to bring our own energy.”

The non-league tourney is scheduled to continue Saturday and Sunday, with the Cougars’ opponents to be determined.

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