Crook County loses heartbreaker to Roosevelt
Cowboys’ state playoff run comes to an end in Portland
NORTH PORTLAND - "Hold your heads high," Crook County Cowboys Coach Jeff Lowenbach said in the locker room after Friday's game at Roosevelt High School. "You guys had a heckuva season. Good job."
The Cowboys, who last Tuesday won their first-ever playoff game at West Albany, completed their season at Roosevelt on Friday in the second round of the Class 5A Boys Basketball State Championships. Although carrying a one-point halftime lead, the Cowboys lost to the Roughriders in a heartbreaker, 55-42.
With the win, Roosevelt, the No. 1-seed out of the Portland Interscholastic League, will advance as one of the final eight teams in the Class 5A, and will play Churchill on Wednesday at McArthur Court in Eugene.
For the Cowboys, it would be the final game in what was an historic season; one that saw the first playoff win, the first consecutive playoff appearance, and only the fourth time in 59 years the team saw postseason play. And for seniors Chad Howard, Mike Gould and Richard Combee, it was their final game as a Cowboy.
"It's pretty disappointing being our last game of high school," Howard said, "but it was a great season, especially making history with the last playoff game (against West Albany)."
While Crook County won its first-ever playoff game last Tuesday, the Roughriders were looking to win their first playoff game since 1985.
From the start, both teams battled back and forth, with Roosevelt taking a 14-13 lead after one quarter. In the second, James Nunez started by hitting a 3-pointer, but Roosevelt's Cameron Jackson responded with one of his own. However, down 24-18, the Cowboys rallied at the end of the second stanza, going on a 7-0 run to end the first half and take a 25-24 lead.
The Cowboys continued the trend in the second half, and started the third quarter on an 8-3 run over the opening three minutes. However, from there on in, the Cowboys' luck would change, and the team did not score over the remaining 5:45 of the third quarter.
"They found our weakness," Howard said. "They were going to stall if we were behind. And then they pressured us, and that was probably the best on-ball pressure, and we struggled."
As a result, the Roughriders, down 33-27, would end the third quarter on a 13-0 run. To add insult, Roosevelt, who had a four-point lead at the time, held onto the ball for the final 1:20, and Victor Jackson hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to go up by seven points heading to the fourth quarter.
"That was a huge shot in the game, and a guy who we don't mind taking the shot rises up and takes the shot and makes it," Lowenbach said. "Now they could make us come out and play their game, and we still did a decent job. In the second half, it boiled down to them turning up the pressure and us turning the ball over."
In the final eight minutes, the Cowboys could not make up any ground on the Roughriders. While David Reeher started the quarter with a 3-point play, Roosevelt's Larry Richards responded with a 3-pointer of his own.
The Roughriders began to pull away midway through the fourth quarter, increasing the pressure of their full-court press - a press they used throughout the entire game - and creating turnovers on the Cowboys. With only 12 turnovers for the game, the Cowboys had 10 of them in the second half alone.
"It's definitely a game we could have won," Lowenbach said. "Roosevelt did exactly what we talked about. We figured they would turn up the pressure, turn it up a notch, and that's exactly what they did.
"They had quickness that we couldn't replicate in practice or that we had seen in games as well. But overall, I think we did a pretty good job defending them."
Reeher led the Cowboys with 15 points, 10 rebounds and had six blocks. Howard contributed 11 points and four assists. The Cowboys shot 13 of 28 (46 percent) from the field, and 3 of 11 (27 percent) from 3-point range.
Roosevelt's Richards led all scorers on the night with 20 points, 15 of which came from 3-point range, while the leading scorer for the Roughriders, Cameron Jackson (16.0 ppg), was held to just seven points on the night.
"It's always a tough night when the seniors play their last game," Lowenbach said. "The three seniors have been a big part of what's happened since I've been here, playing Cowboys basketball. We definitely could not have had a season like we did without them."
"The mood was upsetting," Howard said, "but everybody understood. We're happy for how far we got, and now they're ready for next year to step up and take it even farther.