Cowboys find way to make season relevant


Coaching staff pleased with teams progress despite 3-20 record

The Crook County High School boys basketball team struggled to a 3-20 record this season.

Still, despite the record, the team's coaching staff was pleased with the progress that they saw.

“The thing that I was most proud of with the boys was that they found a way to make their season relevant,”said first-year head coach Darin Kessi. “They never quit and kept battling and that win over Ridgeview made their season have meaning.”

After dropping 11 consecutive games, including a 96-56 pounding by Ridgeview, the Cowboys found a way to beat the Ravens in their second meeting. The 66-65 victory kept the team in play-off contention until the final game of the season. The two teams went into that final game with everything on the line, with the winner earning the Special District I championship and a state tournament play-in game, while the loser was finished for the year.

The Cowboys took an early lead, then saw senior Andrew Sofich go down with an ankle injury. Ridgeview eventually won the contest 71-43, eliminating Crook County from post-season contention.

Still, Kessi was proud that the team continued to fight to the end of their season.

“Starting with the Bend game in the end of January, the team started to focus on improving and just trying to compete in every game,” Kessi said. “I felt like once we started doing that we just kept getting better and better.”

Kessi added that the team suffered a lot of setbacks early in the year.

“The boys didn’t use that as an excuse,”he said. “We just decided that this is who we have and whoever got the call to play was asked to step up. I feel like the guys were doing that and we had some really good momentum going.”

The setbacks included point guard Blake Bartels missing much of the first half of the season with an injury suffered during football season. The day that Bartels finally returned to action, senior A.J. Cooper was lost for the season with a knee injury. Several other players also missed games with either injuries or illness.

“A.J. got a really tough break when he hurt his knee,” Kessi said. “But one of the things I really appreciated about A.J. is he found a way to be productive and help the team.”

Kessi noted that Cooper became the team’s vocal leader and continued to attend practice every day despite his injury.

“A.J. took a really bad situation and tried to do what he could to help his team,” Kessi added. “It’s awfully nice as a coach to have a kid who will say the hard things to a teammate that they needed to hear and A.J. did a really good job of that, but he would also come back and be very positive and encouraging when he saw a kid who was struggling.”

Kessi added that he was also pleased with the rest of the seniors on the squad.

“They were willing to accept whatever role I had for them,” he said. “They always came to practice with a good attitude. They came wanting to get better and they came to practice encouraging their teammates to get better.”

Kessi is excited about the future of the team. Most of this season the Cowboys relied on underclassmen to fill key roles. Sophomores Seth Kessi and Bartels were both named honorable mention all-league in the Intermountain Hybrid League.

Several other players who played significant varsity minutes also return. Add to that the fact that the team moves from the Intermountain Hybrid League, where they faced primarily 5A opponents, to the 4A Tri-Valley League and the team has reason to be optimistic.

“If we were a strong team with lots of experience I don’t think that playing the Bend Schools would have the same kind of effect on us,” Kessi said. “But I think that because we are still young and still rebuilding that getting an opportunity to play teams at our level and getting an opportunity to get wins is probably what we need more than getting stiffer competition.”

Kessi added that he already has team members asking what they can do to get better for next year and asking when they can start practicing again.

He expects to start open gyms immediately following spring break and is planning on taking players to a team camp as well as playing at least 20 summer games.

“Moving forward I’m really excited about the direction these guys want to go,”Kessi said. “I think they are hungry to have a breakout season next year. We don’t want to show up next year and just be in the middle of the league. We want to be competing for the league championship.”

Boys basketball

Intermountain Hybrid All-league team

Player of the Year — Grant Lannin, sr. Mountain View.

Coaches of the year — Craig Reid, Mountain View, Scott Baker, Bend.

First team — Ments Haugen, jr. Mountain View. Grant Lannin, sr. Mountain View. Nick Moyer, sr. Summit. Connor Scott, sr. Bend. George Mendazona, so. Ridgeview.

Second team — Wyatt Beaumarchais, sr. Bend. Jaylin Robinson, sr. Bend. J.J. Spitler, jr. Bend. Davis Holly, so. Mountain View. Jack Bowman, sr. Ridgeview.

Honorable mention — Seth Kessi, so. Crook County. Blake Bartels, so. Crook County. Garret Roth, sr. Mountain View. Brandon Benson, so. Redmond. Derek Brown, so. Redmond. Tanner O’Neal, jr. Ridgeview. Max Michalski, jr. Summit. Isaac Derman, jr. summit, Jacob Parsons, jr. Summit.