The Bulldogs battled, but Creswell’s run at the OSAA 3A Boys’ Basketball State Championships ended Feb. 22 with a first-round state playoff loss on the road, 48-75, to third-ranked Dayton.
The 14th-ranked Bulldogs went into the game as definite ”under-Dawgs,” but Creswell Head Coach Jesse Thomas said he liked the matchup of two guard-dominant teams and believed that if the Dawgs played their best game on both sides of the ball, they could pull off the upset.
He noted, though, that the Pirates have several First Team All-League quality players and have made it to the final eight in state every year since 2011.
”Historically, they’re a very good program; they know how to prepare for big games and they were prepared for us,” Thomas said. ”They’re really good: athletic, long, tall and strong. I knew it would take our best defensive game and our best offensive game to beat them.”
Unfortunately, that wasn’t what the Dawgs delivered.
Creswell was down 12-19 after the first quarter, in which Dallton Dewey scored five, including a three and Austin Gabriel hit a three. ”We got some good looks and got off to a good start,” Thomas said.
But Dayton closed the quarter on a 6-2 run, with Payton Garrison, who finished with a game-high 18 points for Dayton, scoring 10 in the first period, capitalizing on defensive miscues. ”Those 10 points were all off lay-ups and put-backs,” Thomas noted.
The Bulldogs trailed 21-35 at halftime and 34-57 after three. ”We finished the first half with Tayler (Forsman) getting fouled shooting a long two that he made, and he also made the free throw, so we had a little bit of momentum going into halftime, but they blasted us 13-22 in the third quarter,” Thomas said.
Tyler Frieze paced Creswell with 14 points and five rebounds. Forsman had 11 points and three assists; Gabriel had eight points and seven rebounds.
Braedan Nowlin added 16 points for Dayton.
”They shot the ball well and we struggled to score, but our defensive rotation and rebounding were what really hurt us,” Thomas said.
With their state run ended, the Bulldogs’ attention now turns to the 2020 season.
”Our kids battled, but the hardest thing this year was our consistency: when we were ‘on’ and when we were ‘off,’” Thomas said. ”When we were ‘on,’ I always said we could beat anybody; but where we really struggled was against bigger, stronger, faster teams, so that’s been a learning opportunity for us this year, and we know we have to get bigger, stronger and faster too.”
In Forsman, a senior, the Dawgs lose ”a massive piece as a three-year starter who plays great defense and on offense is capable of putting a lot of points up,” Thomas said. And in senior Andrew Spence, ”we had that shooter spot off the bench, and he had some big games for us and improved his defense during the season,” he added.
”But I’m confident in the group we have returning,” Thomas said. ”They’re competitive kids, and I have no doubt they’ll be hungry and put in the work in the off-season to improve and get stronger and be ready to make a run for the league title next year – that’s our goal, and I think we’re in a good spot now to make that happen.”