Crook County is solidly in playoff contention with six games to play

by: LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Samantha Herrera goes strong to the basket against Hermiston during the cowgirls loss on Saturday.

The Intermountain Conference basketball season has reached the halfway point and the Crook County Cowgirls find themselves solidly in playoff contention.
   The Cowgirls are alone in third place in the IMC with a 5-3 league mark, 12-6 overall, after splitting a pair of games with Pendleton and Hermiston over the weekend.
   "Pendleton was a very key win for us," Head Coach Kurt Sloper said. "And I think the best part about Hermiston is they are behind us, and everyone else except Summit still has to play them."
   The Cowgirls started slowly on Friday against Pendleton, trailing 14-8 at the end of one period, but they gradually turned up the heat, and outscored the Buckaroos 35-22 in the second half earning a 59-47 victory. The loss coupled with a loss to the Summit Storm dropped Pendleton to 4-4 in league and 12-6 overall, and puts them in fourth place in conference play.
   Crook County had 11 girls score in the game, led by Jamie Cary with 17, and Kaitlyn Duncan with 13 points, while Alexis Doutre led the Buckaroos with 16 points. Danni Severance and Kady Stafford each had 10 rebounds for the Cowgirls. Crook County forced Pendleton into 24 turnovers and outrebounded the taller Buckaroos 40-32.
   "Cary did a great job of stepping up with the scoring," said Sloper. "It was nice for her to have a good night and shoot the ball well and it was nice for our team. It was a great team effort. You know I think we are really hitting our stride right now and playing some really good high quality basketball."
   On Saturday, things did not go as well for the Cowgirls against Hermiston. The Bulldogs jumped on top 20-2 and even with a 22 point second quarter the Cowgirls still found themselves down 14 at the half, and they could get no closer falling 78-53.
   Hermiston was led by sophomore sensation Shoni Schimmel with 28 points and 10 assists, while Jessica Lea led the Cowgirls with 14, and Duncan added 10.
   "I thought we came out and played hard, and you know we came out and gave it our best shot," Sloper said. "Schimmel really took over. When she's distributing the ball they're a very tough team to beat. She's just a rare and special talent."
   Hermiston is running away with the IMC playoff race with an 8-0 league record and a 15-4 season mark, while Bend is in second with a 5-2 record.
   "Bend still has to go up to Pendleton and Hermiston," Sloper said. "You know we're really trying to stay focused on the now and the next game, but it was a good weekend for us as far as the standings go."
   The Cowgirls have a chance to rest up and try to get healthy as they do not play again until Friday when they have a 7 p.m. home game against The Dalles/Wahtonka.
   "I think we are playing good team basketball right now and Friday (against Pendleton) was evidence of that," said Sloper. "We had a great turnout for the game. There were a lot of people and it was a great atmosphere for basketball. We've got the next three in a row at home and I'm just hoping that we can duplicate that type of atmosphere and get some energy that our kids can feed off of to pull out some wins."
   Friday, Jan. 25
   Pendleton (47) - Alexis Doutre 16, Beamer 8, Hoeft 9, Demianew 2, Minthorn 12. Totals 14 19-27 47.
   Crook County (59) - Jamie Cary 17, Duncan 13, Verity 5, Crofcheck 4, K. Wilcox 2, Lea 7, Severance 2, Stafford 2, Fulton 2, J. Wilcox 2, Herrera 3, Buswell. Totals 22 7-13 59.
   Pendleton 14 11 11 11 - 47
   Crook County 8 16 15 20 - 59
   Three-point goals - Pendleton: none. Crook County: Cary 4, Duncan 2, Lea 2, Verity 1.
   Saturday, Jan. 26
   Hermiston (78) - Shoni Schimmel 28, McCloud 9, Whitsett 7, VonArx 5, Stakona 2, Rowan 7, Davis 6, Royer 3, Coombs 9. Totals 33 5-7 78.
   Crook County (53) - Jessica Lea 14, Duncan 10, Verity 2, K. Wilcox 7, Severance 2, Stafford 5, J. Wilcox 6, Herrera 5, Buswell, Kelso, Crofcheck. Totals 19 10-19 53.
   Hermiston 22 21 18 17 - 78
   Crook County 7 22 10 14 - 53
   Three-point goals - Hermiston: Schimmel 5, Whitsett 1, Coombs 1. Crook County: Lea 2, J. Wilcox 2, K. Wilcox 1.
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