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Over the past few years, Tigard and Canby have played in some tight, thrilling battles. In 2020, Canby began the new year with a nine-point road win over then-No. 1 ranked Tigard in the biggest win for the program in years. In 2021, The Cougars and Tigers split the season series in two down-to-the-wire games.
Yes, the games have been close. But there’s one thing that Tigard has always had over Canby: last-second shots.
As was the case in 2018 and in 2020, Tigard (12-4, 4-1 TRL) nipped by the Cougars (11-7, 2-3 TRL) in another thrilling game that didn’t quite go Canby’s way. A shot by Malik Brown with 3.1 seconds remaining pushed the Tigers to a narrow 60-58 victory.
Despite it being the second game the two had played this season, it was the first Three Rivers League matchup for the two teams. The first game of the year, the final game of the Les Schwab Invitational, saw the Tigers win 55-44.
This time around, it was clear that things would be different. Cougar point guard Alex Evans, who missed the first game due to injury, was back and better than ever. Though Evens has been back for the last four games, Tuesday’s game was his best performance since his injury.
“It felt great to be back out there,” Evans told the Current. “It was probably the first game back that I was feeling closer to 100%.”
Evans was relatively quiet in the first half, a half where Canby shot well and lead Tigard 27-25. Despite this, Evans sat at only five points; instead, it was Jacob Strand carrying the load for the Cougars with eight points and four rebounds.
In the second half, though, Evans came out on fire. The senior hit tallied 14 points in the second half, including four triples. In a game in which neither team led by more than eight points, every bucket mattered.
While Evans was heating up, so was Tigard’s Malik Brown. The senior scored eight of his 13 points on the night in the fourth quarter. He and his brother Kalim kept the Tigers within firing distance in the fourth as the game stayed neck-and-neck.
Tigard managed to just barely stay ahead in the final minutes as each team traded buckets. Four straight points from Dom Pepper cut the lead to one with two minutes remaining. Then with one minute left, Pepper found a wide-open Evans, who buried the trey to cut the lead to 55-56.
After two Tiger free throws, Evans rose to the occasion again. He rounded a screen and pulled up from the well beyond the 3-point line, knocking in his second consecutive triple, this one from the Tigard logo. The bench went into hysterics as a timeout was called with 23 seconds left.
However, as has been the case three of the last five years, Tigard had the last laugh. Malik Brown knifed past the Canby defenders, hitting a tough layup between Evans and Pepper to give the Tigers a two-point lead with 3.1 remaining.
Craig Evans used a second to advance the ball and call another timeout, but Canby had a shot with two seconds left. Evans got the ball at the 3-point line, turned and fired up a prayer.
“I shot that last shot left-handed and trying to get a foul call,” Evans said. “I thought it had a chance to go in.”
Evans’ shot had the distance, but sailed to the right and bounced harmlessly off the rim. Though he did not hit the game-winner, Evans still finished with 19 points, nine rebounds, and five threes.
Pepper himself had a career night, scoring 14 points on a perfect 6-6 from the field. Payton Meyers, the Cougars’ leading scorer on the year, was held in check with 10 on the night.
The loss may sting for Canby, but in the TRL there’s no time to dwell. Canby will face a two-game gauntlet this week, traveling to take on the OSAA No. 1-ranked Tualatin Timberwolves on Tuesday before their biggest game of the year: Pack the Gym Night against Lake Oswego.
Crowds will be lining up early for the big game, which is set to tip-off at 7:30 p.m. following the girls’ game.
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