After a bye puts Crook County in the tournament semifinals they drop two games to finish fifth overall

Last Wednesday afternoon, the Crook County Cowboys arrived at the Sisters Invitational Tournament only to find that their first round opponent had canceled out of the tournament.

Despite the cancellation, the Cowboys were initially moved to the loser's bracket before finally being moved to the tournament semifinals.LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Keenan Mozingo goes to the hoop against a pair of White Buffalo defenders at the Sisters Invitational Tournament. After leading in the third quarter, the Cowboys lost the game to Madras 59-42. The loss dropped the Cowboys into the third place game, which the Cowboys lost to the Henley Hornets 67-37.

Once in the semifinals, the Cowboys played well for most of the game before finally falling 59-42 to the Madras White Buffalos. Friday in the third-place game was a different story as the Cowboys fell behind early and were routed 67-37 by the Henley Hornets.

"We came out flat against Madras, but it was good to see the boys not panic and they just kept scratching and fighting and got themselves back in it," Crook County head coach Darin Kessi said of Thursday's game.

However, Kessi wasn't so positive about the Cowboys' effort on Friday against Henley.

"We got rolled," he said. "They are a good team and they didn't play well Thursday against Sisters and they took it out on us. You know, it was like a swarm of Hornets today, literally."

Thursday, in the semifinals, the Cowboys faced the Madras White Buffalos, who came back from a first-half deficit to defeat the Mazama Vikings in the first round of the three-day tournament.

The Cowboys came out flat against the White Buffalos, who opened up an early 7-0 lead.

Crook County quickly switched to a man-to-man defense and the strategy worked. Madras still led 17-7 at the end of the first period. However, the Cowboys gradually climbed back into the contest.

When Greg Shannon hit a bucket late in the first half, the Cowboys trailed just 21-19. However, when Damean Frank hit a 50-foot shot at the buzzer, the White Buffalos led 24-19 at the half.

The Cowboys continued to play tough defense early in the third quarter, finally taking the lead, 27-26 on a steal and layup by Keenan Mozingo. Thaidan Mullan picked up another steal, and was fouled on the way to the hoop. When Mullan made both free throws, the Cowboys led 29-26 with 3:51 remaining in the quarter.

However, Crook County could only score two more points in the period, while the White Buffalos went on a late run, scoring 12 points in the final 2:45 of the period to pull out to a 38-31 lead.

The Madras run continued as they scored the first five points of the third period to open up a 43-31 lead. Crook County continued to struggle to score the remainder of the game as the White Buffalos pulled away for a 59-42 win.

The Cowboys were led by Will Combee with 12 points. Chae Bales added seven, while Darrien Langley and Thaiden Mullan each had six.

The White Buffalos were led by Tyler Lockey with 15, while Frank had 14 and Chad Thurby and Kanim Smith both finished with nine.

With the win, the White Buffalos improved to 6-3 on the year. Madras fell to Sisters in a close game in the tournament finals.

"I think that we are starting to run through our stuff on offense and that our help defense was pretty good," said Greg Shannon, who scored four points, following the game. "I feel like playing Madras helped us gauge where we are as a team and I think that it shows that we can hang with anyone in our league."

Keenan Mozingo agreed.LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Will Combee goes up for two of his 12 points in the Cowboys' loss to the Madras White Buffalos. Combee had 12 points again the following day as the Cowboys lost to the Henley Hornets.

"I think our defense is literally what we need to rely on to go forward in the season," he said. "Our offense is slowly building as a team, and we will get more teamwork as the season goes on. I'm totally impressed with our progress. This is a building step for us and when we get to league we'll actually compete."

As well as the Cowboys played for most of the game on Thursday, Saturday was a different story.

Utilizing a full court press, Henley jumped out to an 8-0 lead and never trailed as they cruised to the easy win.

"They did what I think most teams should do against us," Kessi said. "They pressured the tar out of us. To our credit we did break the press and at times we scored, but I bet that we missed 20 points worth of pretty good shots after breaking the press."

Henley only forced 16 Crook County turnovers in the contest. However, they used the pressure to speed up the tempo of the game, causing the Cowboys to rush shots.

The strategy was very effective as Henley roared out to a 22-8 lead by the end of the first quarter.

The Cowboys played better in the second quarter, but were still outscored 14-10 as the Hornets took a 36-18 half time lead.

Henley continued to stretch the lead the rest of the game as they rolled to the 30-point win.

For the second consecutive game, Combee led Crook County in scoring with 12 points, while Bales and Shane Kessi each added six.

McKade Allen did much of the damage for the Hornets, finishing with 19 points, while Bryce Larman and Jake Overstreet were also in double figures with 13 and 12 points, respectively.

The win improved the Hornets record to 8-1 on the year, while Crook County is still winless with an 0-9 record.

Crook County is back in action on Friday when they go on the road to take on the Sweet Home Huskies (4-7) in a 7:15 p.m. game. The Cowboys are on the road again on Wednesday, Jan. 11, when they take on The Dalles in a 7 p.m. game.

"I think that we are optimistic," Coach Kessi said. "It's hard to say that when you are 0-9, but I think those are all games that we can compete in and maybe get a few wins. I feel like we are getting closer to getting things figured out."

Madras 59, Crook County 42

At Sisters

Crook County (42) — Will Combee 12, Bales 7, Langley 6, Mullan 6, Shannon 4, Dalton 3, Savage 2, Mozingo 2, Connolly, Kessi, Chaney. Totals 15 11-13 42.

Madras (59) — Tyler Lockey 15, Frank 14, Thurby 9, Smith 9, Patt 5, Fine 5, Wallulalum 2. Totals 23 9-12 42.

Crook County 7 12 12 11 — 42

Madras 17 7 14 21 — 59

3 point goals — Crook County: Bales; Madras: Frank 2, Patt, Thurby.

Henley 67, Crook County 37

At Crook County

Crook County (37) — Will Combee 12, Bales 6, Kessi 6, Savage 4, Da. Langley 4, Mullan 3, Mozingo 2, Connolly, Shannon, Dalton, Chaney, Bishop, Do. Langley. Totals 14 4-7 37.

Henley (67) — McKade Allen 19, Fenters 7, O'Connor 7, Overstreet 12, Larman 13, Loney 6, Scott 3, Hardwick. Totals 28 6-10 67.

Crook County 8 10 7 12 — 37

Henley 22 14 14 17 — 67

3 point goals — Crook County: Kessi 2, Bales 2, Mullan; Henley: Larman 3, Fenters, O'Connor.

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