CRESWELL – The Creswell girls are on a pretty amazing run. It’s not really reflective in their won-loss record, but it definitely shows in their play on the basketball court.
The Bulldogs’ week started with a 51-49 overtime loss at Harrisburg (18-1), but they bounced back at home with a 66-60 victory over perennial power Santiam Christian (13-6).
“The loss to Harrisburg was tough because we weren’t playing to our maximum level early,” Creswell coach Tyler Hollingsworth said. “Then we got dialed in and we gave up only four baskets over the last 18 minutes. But we gave up 29 points in the first half and that’s unacceptable.”
There was one extra shiny bright spot in both games for the Bulldogs. Senior Emme Whitson scored a career-high 27 points Tuesday night against Harrisburg … then topped that performance by lighting up Santiam Christian for 32 points on Friday night.
“She’s driving to the rim, picking up fouls, really making some baller moves. She even made a couple of nice hesitation moves,” Hollingsworth said. “I think she’s the best player in the league, plus she always guards the best perimeter player on the other team.”
In the win over Santiam, Creswell led 50-44 after three quarters and never lost the lead, even though the visitors trimmed it to 59-58 with 1:25 to play on two free throws by Kate Fast.
Creswell stretched its advantage to 61-58 when Dakota Carson grabbed a deflected pass in the lane and scored. A steal and free throw by Whitson made it 62-58 with 28 seconds left, then Samairah Quinones put the game out of reach, hitting two more foul shots with 24 seconds left to make it 64-58.
“We haven’t won a close game all season,” Hollingsworth said. “Most of our girls just haven’t had the experience of finishing out close games like this, But we need to get to the playoffs, so I hope to get in enough tough games to be ready if we make it that far.
“Part of it is believing in themselves – you have to go through something to be something. In the end, it’s going to come down to how much faith they have in each other and how much they want it.”
The coach was effusive in his praise for the team victory against Santiam Christian.
“Down the stretch, Karinna (Leonard) did an excellent job of handling their pressure,” he said. “I thought our bench was phenomenal. I heard some girls saying this was so much fun … we’ve got such a great, supportive bench.
“And Dakota’s energy is amazing. She keeps getting her hands on the ball. She just has that natural ability to find the ball.”
Hollingsworth also said that Quinones (12 points, 12 rebounds) and Lauren Bailey played exceptionally well.
The Bulldogs were this close to a perfect week. But that OT loss won’t sting so bad if Creswell learns a lesson from it before Harrisburg makes a return visit on Feb. 11.
“It was a tough week,” Hollingsworth said, “but as long as we grow from every loss, we’ll be fine in the end.”