Cougars Bounce Back with Takedown of Oregon City

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After running into the brick wall that is Jackson Shelstad and the West Linn Lions, the Canby Cougars boys basketball team bounced back with a nice 54-41 win over the Oregon City Pioneers.

Canby’s week began with a home matchup against West Linn (10-2, 3-1 TRL). The Cougars (11-6, 2-2 TRL) — who haven’t beaten the Lions since February of 2011 — had an uphill battle against the tenth-ranked Lions, who are led by star Jackson Shelstad.

The four-star Oregon commit leads the state in points per game, averaging a whopping 27 per contest, and is Oregon’s No.1 recruit, as well as a top 15 point guard prospect in the country.

Shelstad got off to a quick start on Tuesday, scoring the first nine points as the Lions jumped out to a 9-3 lead. Ten combined points from Alex Evans and Payton Meyers kept the game within reach early, but the Cougars went completely silent in the second.

A Jacob Strand layup with four minutes left chipped in the only points Canby would manage in the quarter as the Cougars fell behind by 14.

After one half of play, Canby had put 15 points on the board. Shelstad had 15 himself. Cougar head coach Craig Evans detailed the difficulty of containing West Linn’s dynamo.

“Preparing for a talented player like Shelstad is not easy,” Evans told the Current. “There is no magical formula. We had a game plan for him and the rest of the team. He stepped up and delivered what he needed to beat us.”

After a second half where neither team gained or lost ground, West Linn left Canby with a 66-47 victory. Shelstad finished the game with 32 points to lead both teams. Meyers led the way for the Cougars with 16 points, while Strand finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds.

In their next game against Oregon City (9-7, 1-3 TRL), Canby began by missing 3-pointers — and they would continue to misfire throughout the game. In fact, the Cougars were shut out from beyond the arc, going 0-11 from downtown for the game.

So how did a Cougar team that averages five and a half triples a game make up for the lost points? The answer was simple: Attack the inside. The Cougars turned to Jacob Strand, who pounded it inside relentlessly, scoring eight points and helping power Canby to a 13-7 lead at the end of the first frame.

“Strand is a very huge part of our game plan. How teams play him will determine where we want to go,” Evans said. “If they don’t help, we are going to him. If they do, then it will be up to our guards to take over.”

After Strand scored 10 points in the first half, his teammates decided to give him a hand. Meyers’ drives inside earned him seven free throws in the game, where six of his 16 points on the night came from. Dom Pepper also had a career night, hitting all of his shots in the second half.

The balanced attack propelled Canby to their second league victory of the year, winning 54-41. Meyers and Strand led the way for the Cougars with 16 each, while Pepper chipped in a career-high 12 points. Alex Evans scored only four points, but made his presence felt with nine rebounds and nine assists.

The win for Canby showed their improvement since the beginning of the season. The boys had faced the Pioneers in the season-opening jamboree, battling them to an 18-18 draw. Evans detailed how the team has improved since that December 1st scrimmage.

“Our roles are being more defined. We are becoming a better team,” Evans said. “Our conditioning has improved along with our skills. These guys are still having fun and improving every day.”

Canby will only have one game next week, an away matchup against Tigard (10-4, 2-1 TRL) on Tuesday. The two teams faced off in December in the Les Schwab Invitational, where the Tigers won 55-44 in a game without Alex Evans. The game is scheduled to tip-off at 6:30 p.m.

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