Rory Priday, Thomas McCarthy and Kyle Huntley know what pain is.
>Cowboys were eliminated from playoffs in last game of regular season last year
As the three returning starters from last year's Crook County boys basketball team, they were integral parts of a Cowboy squad that came literally within minutes of qualifying for the class 4A state playoffs this past season.
Up 39-33 in the season finale against Bend, and needing a win to clinch a playoff spot, the Cowboys were outscored 18-5 in the game's final three and a half minutes.
Instead of securing the No. 4 spot, Crook County's season ended right then and there.
New coach Jeff Lowenbach will rely on their experience and their memories as he attempts to guide this year's team to the next level.
"Getting so close made them hungry," he said. "They know what it takes to get there. We just need to make that next step."
With little height among its roster, the Cowboys will try to offset their opponents with their shooting and rebounding skills. They will also feature a more up tempo style of play than they have in years past.
"We have guys who can shoot," said Lowenbach. "So as long as we can defend and rebound to keep us in games, we should be able to be competitive for one of the top spots."
Lowenbach added that his team won't lose any games this year based on effort alone.
"Eventually, our hard work and our work ethic is going to be one of our strengths," he said. "They are always going to give 100 percent."
The Cowboys finished 6-8 last year in the Intermountain Conference and 11-13 overall. They will be hurt most by the losses of Peter Bjorvik and Ben Timchak. Both were all-conference selections.
Lowenbach points to their first league matchup against The Dalles on Dec. 18 and a home contest against Redmond on Jan. 14 as key early games.
He predicts Redmond, Mt. View and Hermiston to be among this year's IMC frontrunners.
"It's going to be tough being a transition year, but we have lots of time to get ready," he said. "Once we get into league play, we should be ready to go."