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Cowboys build big early lead, then hold on for the non-league victory over Huskies

LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Chase Bales goes up for two of his 10 points as the Crook County Cowboys knocked off the Sweet Home Huskies 58-48 Friday night in Prineville.The Crook County Cowboys trailed for most of the first period but used stifling defense to pull away from the Sweet Home Huskies in the second quarter as they rolled to a 58-48 win Friday night in Prineville.

"It felt good," Crook County forward Thaiden Mullan said of the win. "We got a win in our white jerseys for the first time this year, so it felt pretty good. That was probably the most solid defense we played all year."

Sweet Home took an early 3-0 lead on a trio of free throws by their outstanding junior post Jake Swanson.

The Cowboys fought back to take the lead on a 2-point basket by Mullan and a three from Shane Kessi.

However, the Huskies quickly tied the score on a basket by Swanson.

The Huskies still led 8-7 late in the first quarter before Kessi hit a two with less than 20 seconds remaining in the period, giving the Cowboys a 9-8 lead.

The Cowboys offense shifted into high gear in the second quarter as Kaleb Savage and Will Combee both hit baskets, extending the Crook County lead to 14-8.

The patient Huskies worked the entire first half to get the ball into the paint, but the Cowboy defense made life difficult for Swanson, who got into early foul trouble.

Crook County led 19-12 when Swanson was called for his third foul of the half. Swanson went to the bench for the remainder of the half, and the Cowboys took advantage, outscoring the Huskies 10-2 in the final three minutes of the half as they raced out to a 29-14 lead.

"Our defense, especially in the first half, was really, really good," Crook County head coach Darin Kessi said. "I think we held them to 14 points. That was really solid."

Both teams traded baskets in the third quarter, with neither team able to get an advantage. Swanson picked up his fourth foul with 5:16 remaining in the period, but the scrappy Huskies refused to go away.

The Cowboys still led 44-30 heading into the fourth period. However, the Huskies continued to fight.

When Keegan Holly hit a 3-pointer, the Huskies were down just 10 at 48-38. Then Holly hit another 3-pointer and was fouled on the play. The senior guard calmly sank his free throw, and the Huskies were back in the game, trailing just 48-42.

After a time out, Devin Bishop answered with a big bucket for the Cowboys. A Chase Bales rebound led to a Mullan two, and the Cowboys were back in front 52-42.

Sweet Home made one more run, but the Cowboys answered every challenge as they held on for the 10-point win.

"One thing we talked about and the boys knew was that Sweet Home wasn't going to change how they were playing, regardless of if they were down or if they were up," coach Kessi said. "They were true to form and kept at it, but we got some stops when we needed to and then we made our free throws. That was a huge win for us."

Jordan Graydon led a balanced Crook County attack with 12 points. Mullan and Bales were also in double figures with 10 points apiece, while Kessi finished with nine.

Holly led the Huskies with 12 points, while Casey Tow was also in double figures with 10. Swanson finished with eight, despite fouling out early in the fourth quarter, and Colton Smith added eight points for the Huskies.

The Cowboys, who have struggled on the boards this season, managed to outrebound the Huskies 29-21. One of the other keys to the victory was that Crook County committed just 11 turnovers in the contest compared to 13 for Sweet Home.

Bales led all rebounders with nine, while Graydon pulled down six and Mullan five.

The win broke a seven-game losing streak for the Cowboys, who are now 3-9.

Meanwhile, Sweet Home fell to 5-8 on the year. Going into the game, the Cowboys were ranked 40th and last in the OSAA Class 4A power rankings, while the Huskies were 23rd. With the win, Crook County improved to 38th, while Sweet Home fell all the way to 28th.

"We had a brutal Christmas and for them to come out and keep battling and keep working on things in practice, I was really pleased," Kessi said. "We were pretty deflated coming in here, so it was good to see them bounce back. I'm encouraged and excited about next week."

The Cowboys host The Dalles on Wednesday, beginning at 7 p.m., then are off until Wednesday, Jan. 17, when they go on the road to take on the Estacada Rangers in the opening game of the Tri-Valley Conference season for both teams.

"We have a few days to practice, and I think we are going to keep getting better," Kessi said. "Hopefully we will hit our stride once we get into league. That's the goal."

Crook County 58, Sweet Home 48

At Crook County

Sweet Home 8 6 16 18 - 48

Crook County 9 20 15 14 - 58

Sweet Home – Keegan Holly 12, Tow 10, Swanson 8, Smith 8, Nichol 5, Virtue 3, Coulter 2. Totals: 13 14-21 48

Crook County – Jordan Graydon 12, Mullan 10, Bales 10, Kessi 9, Bishop 6, Combee 5, Langley 2, Savage 4, Kasberger, Porfily. Totals: 19 17-24 58

Three-point goals – Sweet Home: Holly 3, Tow 2, Swanson, Nichol Smith. Crook County: Kessi 2, Graydon.

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