RON HARTMAN/THE CHRONICLE
Creswell’s Conner Hanson shoots during the team’s final game.
CRESWELL — When the coaches and players look back on Creswell’s Covid-reduced 2021 basketball season, they probably won’t think so much about the wins and losses.
Instead, they’ll focus on the many positives that emerged from the coronavirus-shortened season.
“We have a great group of girls, and they don’t like being bad at anything,” Creswell girls coach Tyler Hollingsworth said. “So we don’t mind putting in the work.
“We have a good group of juniors, a good group of sophomores, and a good group of freshmen who all want to devote time to it. So it’s fun to be around players who want to play and have a desire to get better.”
Creswell finished 5-9, but 4-4 in league play – in third place behind Santiam Christian and Pleasant Hill. Those two teams are being hit hard by graduation this year while the Bulldogs return everyone.
“I love our team this year,” Hollingsworth said. “This group seems to jell really well. We’re going to try to get back after it in July.
“I told them that next season is a great opportunity for them and I think they’re buying in.”
Likewise, Bulldogs boys coach Jesse Thomas said there were plenty of positive takeaways from the season’s final week, even though his team lost its final three games to finish 2-6 overall and 0-5 in league play. Creswell took a two-week pause during the season due to a false positive test.
“Our effort and our overall attitude has been good,” Thomas said. “We’ve turned the corner in that regard. We have talented kids, they expect to win – they really do – but I think that two-week break really killed us. I told them that I didn’t think Pleasant Hill or La Pine was better than us, but we just had too many breakdowns. We’re such a young team we’ve suffered from a lack of preparation time.”
RON HARTMAN/THE CHRONICLE Jackson Parker receives recognition while on court with his parents.
The Bulldogs made matters interesting in each of their last two road games, a 64-61 overtime setback at La Pine and a 53-24 loss to Santiam.
According to Thomas, it was a tight fourth quarter, and Creswell got up 6 late, but “some mental miscues and poor shot selections” kept the game close. “Then Ajay (Hodge ) made a couple of late free throws, we were up 3 — they missed a shot, it went out of bounds. Then they banked in a 3 with 2 seconds left.”
Caleb Lee and Connor Hanson combined for 35 points.
“Still, it wasn’t a good shooting night for us and we didn’t take care of the ball down the stretch,” Thomas said.
Against Santiam, the Bulldogs were not only facing a team that was unbeaten (7-0) in league play, but one that also featured former point guard Josh Baugher, who has matured into a center/forward and is the top player in the league.
“We did a good job against Josh and in the first half we got a lot of good looks,” Thomas said. “When we went into halftime I told Coach Pete (Apo) and Coach Trevor (Daniels) that I felt like we had played better than them, and we were just down 7.
“In the third quarter they beat us 14-1 – we got a Max (Velarde) free throw — so they blew it open. But I don’t feel like we played terribly.”
Hollingsworth said it’s unfortunate the season is over because he thinks his team was just hitting its stride. In the ’Dogs’ 55-21 victory over Harrisburg, Emma Maness scored a career-high 21 points, drilling 6 of 9 from 3-point range.
“I’ve made the gym available, and I think Emma has been in the gym putting up extra shots every day for an hour,” Hollingsworth said. “She’s more confident and letting it fly.
“She tore her ACL two summers ago – 22 months ago – so 18 months of no live basketball. She’s been trying to find her way back, and I give her a ton of credit for the work she’s put in.”