North Eugene dominates from the opening whistle and shows why they are ranked No. 1 in 5A
"They are No. 1 for a reason," said Head Coach Jeff Lowenbach after the Cowboys basketball team was dismantled on Friday by the Highlanders of North Eugene.
Crook County jumped out in front 2-0 off of two free-throws by Daniel Teater in the first minute of the game, and that was it. North Eugene scored the next 16 points and by the end of the first quarter the Highlanders led 19-4 en route to an 89-41 victory.
"We didn't play very well," said Lowenbach. "We were in foul trouble and we were a little nervous and a little scared I think. But it was no fluke. They are a real good team and they played well."
The Cowboys hit only 24 percent of their shots while North Eugene shot better than 50 percent for the night and were above 60 percent before they started subbing in the fourth quarter.
Teater led the Cowboys in scoring with 14 points while Chase Dunten contributed 11. Drew Laird was seven-for-seven from behind the three-point line on his way to 28 points to lead North Eugene while 6-foot-8 post Brian Conklin scored 22 points, breaking Danny Ainge's school career scoring record, and 6-foot-10 Joe Kammerer added 14 more points.
"We wanted to pack it in and make them beat us from the outside," said Lowenbach. "That was all predicated on David Reeher being in the middle and controlling stuff in the middle. When he got a couple of quick fouls and we had to go with a smaller lineup playing the zone wasn't really working for us. And they hit shots. Laird hit seven threes. That's why we went to man-to-man to hopefully try to track him down a little bit more. It was a tough game, but we didn't help the cause."
The Cowboys had trouble generating any offense over the taller, stronger Highlanders. North Eugene played aggressive man-to-man defense and blocked a number of Cowboy shots as well as altering other shots with their size. And fouls played a big part in the game.
Reeher returned from a two-week absence with an ankle sprain, but never got into any kind of rhythm as he spent most of the night on the bench in foul trouble. And his replacement Andrew Marciel got into quick foul trouble as well. North Eugene took advantage of the Cowboys lack of size pounding the ball inside, and when Cowboy players came to help they kicked the ball back out to Laird for open looks.
With the loss Crook County was left to ponder what might have been. Going into the last game of the regular season all they needed was a win and they would have been the Intermountain Conference second seed, but with both Reeher and John Mountz sidelined with injuries they couldn't pull if off and the Mountain View Cougars finished in second.
Both Mountain View and first place Hermiston advanced to the eight-team state tournament, while the Cowboys season is over.
The Cowboys finished their season with a 16-10 record, falling one game short of making the state tournament for the second year in a row, while North Eugene is 24-2 and favored to win the tournament.
"We got a little unlucky with our draw," said Lowenbach. "We are better than we showed in that last game and you know if we have Reeher healthy and we have Mountz then things would probably have been different. We had our opportunities at the end of the regular season and I think if we had Reeher we probably would have beaten Mountain View and gotten the second seed."
OSAA state playoffs
Friday, March 7
Crook county (41) - Daniel Teater 14, Danforth 11, Reeher 6, Dunten 4, Leavitt 2, Knox 2, Sanchez 2, Haring, Marciel, Mottl, Morrell, Puckett. Totals 12 15-20 41.
North Eugene (89) - Drew Laird 28, Conklin 22, Kammerer 14, Baker 7, Christianson 7, Brown 3, Kirkpatrick 2, Krantz 2, Dent 2, Maita 1, Vanderhoff 1. Totals 31 17-27 89.
Crook County 4 8 10 19 - 41
North Eugene 19 27 29 14 - 89
Three-point goals - Crook County: Teater 2. North Eugene: Laird 7, Brown 1.