‘Comeback Cougars’ Take Second in Holiday Classic

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Two weeks, two tourney championship games for the Canby girls basketball team. After a dramatic, walk-off win over Putnam in the Interstate Shootout the week prior, the Cougars (6-2) marched to the final of the Pacific Office Automation Holiday Classic last week, where they ultimately fell to Lincoln 48-59.

Thursday marked the girls’ first loss of the season under new head coach Ingrid McCoy (who missed the Cougars’ season-opening loss to Nelson due to her own wedding). McCoy, who inherited an unheralded group of girls, had already captured the hearts of the players.

“I think with a new coach and a whole new philosophy, we were all kind of skeptical of what this season would be like,” star point guard Allie Mead told the Current. “But once we saw what Ingrid and the other coaches believed in and emphasized, we were willing to trust the process and come together in order to win.”

Suffice to say, the strategy has proved to be a winning one to this point in the 2021-22 campaign, and Canby’s first-round matchup in the Holiday Classic showed how far the team had come.

The Cougs kicked off their game against Sunset (5-5) slow with only four points in the first quarter, then mustered only 10 more in the second to trail 21-14 at halftime.

Last season, the Canby girls would have dropped their heads and likely gone through the motions till the final buzzer sounded. But not this year.

Instead, the Cougars leaned on their trademark defense to dominate the third quarter. A wide-open triple from senior Mallory Block helped fuel a 21-8 run for the Cougars, who surged into the final frame with a 35-31 lead. The Canby D stayed alive in the final period to give the girls a 45-38 win.

“Even though we were down at half, we believed in our coaches’ philosophy and each other,” Mead said of the game. “So we were able to keep cool heads and fight through this adversity to get the win.”

Canby used the momentum from their round-one win to blast Century (3-6), 51-26. The blowout victory set up a championship date with the 16-ranked Lincoln Cardinals (7-2), the Cougars’ second tourney championship appearance in as many weeks.

Only this time, a buzzer-beating victory would not be in the cards. The Cougs, whose defense had only allowed 34.7 points per contest prior to the championship game, game up nearly twice that in the 48-59 loss. The Cards outdid themselves in the victory, with Thursday’s output being their second-highest scoring game of the year.

Despite the loss, there were still a lot of positive takeaways for McCoy, her crew and Mead to see over the past week.

“[The tournament] taught us to not to give up and stay mentally strong,” Mead said. “Some of the games were ugly, gut-it-out type of games where it was physical or we just couldn’t make shots, so we needed to push through our struggles and persevere.”

The Cougars have forged their reputation in this young season on their grit and mental toughness, with the matchup against Sunset a perfect example of what the team is made of. With the gauntlet of the Three Rivers League schedule looming, the Canby girls will have every opportunity to show exactly how tough they can be.

Canby will conclude their non-league schedule this week with games against McKay and McNary on Tuesday and Friday of this week. Canby will play at home versus McKay with a tip-off scheduled for 7 p.m.

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