CRESWELL – They always say that the breaks even out in sports. When the bounces don’t go your way one game, just be patient, because your luck is certain to change.
The Creswell boys have endured so many tough breaks, so many tight losses, that they’re beginning to wonder when Lady Luck is going to switch sides.
“You try not to be down and keep them ready to fight, but we just haven’t been able to make enough plays down the stretch,” Bulldogs coach Jesse Thomas said after his team’s 44-42 loss Friday night to Harrisburg on Senior Night. Creswell (10-10) has played six close games – and lost all of them – by a combined 14 points.
“It hurts as a coach, and it hurts them, because we’re still giving ourselves a chance to win on a consistent basis, but whether it’s a turnover issue, or a free throw issue, or a defensive issue, it’s a variety of things that we need to address.
“The Harrisburg big kid (Britt Murray) killed us inside, and we couldn’t turn them over enough. They took good shots and held the ball. Credit them. They stayed disciplined.”
Neither team led by more than two down the stretch, as AJ Hodge and Max Velarde hit shots that gave Creswell brief leads in the fourth quarter. The ’Dogs trailed 42-40 when Connor Hanson drove in for a layup to tie it with 1:18 to play.
As Harrisburg tried to hold on for a potential final shot, Hanson made another big play, stealing the ball, but as he spotted a teammate zipping downcourt, his pass was deflected, giving the Eagles the ball. Jackson Davis then scored the winning bucket on a floater in the lane with 19.7 seconds left.
That left Creswell with one final attempt. It got an open look by Tyler Whitson on the right baseline, but it bounced in and out. Harrisburg’s Jack Lidbeck got the rebound and was fouled with 3.8 seconds to go.
He missed the free throw, and Velarde – who led Creswell with 17 points – was able to launch a halfcourt shot just before the buzzer.
Same old story. The shot rattled in and out. Another heartbreaking defeat.
Their previous game was a 50-49 road load to North Douglas, which – for once – wasn’t as painful as the score indicated as Whitson hit a 3 with only four seconds remaining. But the Bulldogs were out of timeouts, so North Douglas didn’t even have to inbound the ball.
Hodge led Creswell with 18 points and 7 rebounds against North Douglas. He had 13 points and 5 boards against Harrisburg.
Amazingly, even with all of the crushing losses, Creswell can still get into the 16-team state Class 3A field if it wins out, but needs help.
“We get a couple more opportunities to do something,” Thomas said. “We’ll play these two games and see what happens from there.”
The stands were nearly full for Senior Night. Caleb Lee, a two-year starter and a top 3-point shooter, is sidelined with a sprained ankle. Jayden Pratt, the only other senior on the roster, started and scored the first basket.
“With Caleb, it’s hard to replace that kind of shooting. I’m glad he was able to get some stability and rise above some challenges,” Thomas said.