Sports Zone

Brennen Murphy: Throwing down, flying high


COTTAGE GROVE – With a 5-4 record, the Cottage Grove Lions aren’t exactly a high-flying bunch.

It was refreshing, though, for the Lions and their fans to see senior star Brennen Murphy earn his wings again. Murphy scored a career-high 30 points on the first day of the Cottage Grove Holiday Tournament, lifting the Lions to a thrilling 72-69 victory over South Umpqua. 

Stayton won the two-day tournament, topping Cottage Grove 54-45 in the championship game on Thursday, Dec. 22. 

“So far, they’re the tallest team we’ve faced, hopefully that’s the tallest team we see this year,” Murphy said after the tournament. “They were 6-6 and 6-7 up front. I’m 6-4.”

The Lions were yielding about three inches per man against the unbeaten Eagles (6-0), but it was a more level playing surface against South Umpqua. 

That’s when Murphy’s mad hops came into clear focus. 

As the most prolific dunker in the area, Murphy had gone several games without a single dunk.

“Last year there were more guys in our lineup to focus on,” Murphy said. “I probably had 12 dunks or so last year – I had four in the first game and then it kind of slowed down.”

Murphy said he rarely ever practices his high-flying act. In fact, he says his dunking ability isn’t really such a big deal.

“Dunking is just a natural thing, it’s not really a basketball play,” he said. “I started dunking right before my 13th birthday. I was about 6-foot then – I haven’t grown as much as I thought I would.”

Against the Lancers (2-7), Murphy got the party started early with a breakaway dunk just 2½ minutes into the game. Then in the third quarter with 1:22 showing on the clock, Murphy dunked again to halt a 21-4 run by the visitors. The Lancers had pulled ahead 53-46, but the Lions regained their momentum and took a 57-56 lead when Hadyn Petersen hit a last-second jumper in the lane.

Cottage Grove stayed ahead until Jace Page hit a layup with 47 seconds left to knot the score at 69 apiece. The Lions’ Cole Kishen got open inside with 25 seconds left to make it 71-69, then hit one of two free throws with 10 seconds left to close out scoring. The Lancers’ Josh Davis tried to draw a foul just before the buzzer, but missed badly. 

That third quarter was a defensive nightmare for Cottage Grove, as South Umpqua put up 30 points – nearly half of its output for the entire game. Against Stayton, the third period was an offensive nightmare, as the Eagles outscored the Lions 12-0. 

“I told them before the fourth quarter that giving up 30 points was inacceptable, that’s not going to get it done on many nights,” Lions coach Seth Hutchison said after last Wednesday’s victory. “But it worked out for us tonight. I thought we played better defensively in the fourth, but we’ve got a long way to go.”

The Lions weren’t as fortunate against Stayton, which plays host to Cottage Grove on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. in the SCTC Holiday Classic, a three-day event. 

“We just didn’t knock shots down, give credit to them, they rebounded really well and outrebounded us 35-17,” Hutchison said. “We didn’t get many second looks. Their center was tough, he has a really good touch around the rim. Even though we were outscored 12-0 in the third, we were still in it, even with a quarter like that.

“We finished well, we talked about just needing  to be confident the entire game – catch it, rhythm, and be ready to shoot and knock down shots.”

That 12-0 run gave Stayton a 16-point lead, 43-27. But Cottage Grove caught fire in the final 3:05 of the game, drilling four 3-pointers to slice the lead to seven, 52-45, when 5-foot-6 backup guard Jose Menchaca connected for his second straight trey. 

“I was pleased with our effort and I thought we defended well. We had that lull in the third quarter. That hurt us,” Hutchison said. “It was good to see Jose get in there and score a quick eight points. We shot it better tonight. But not good enough.”

One of the Lions’ best shooters, sophomore Nathin Lemon, is out for the season with a torn ACL.

“We’re hoping to find somebody who can step up and fill that void for us,” Hutchison said.

Of course, on some nights, Murphy seems quite capable of putting the team on his back. 

“He’s been by far one of our most athletic guys,” Hutchison said. “He’s starting to find his bounce a little bit in practice. The energy we get off him when he dunks – if we can get our hands on balls and deflections, we can do that more.” 

As he nears the end of his high school career, Murphy continues to get college offers – some of them for his track & field endeavors. 

“I have offers to run track and play basketball at smaller schools, but right now my biggest offers are for track,” said Murphy, whose best events are the 400 and  triple jump.

But first, he wants to go out with a bang for Cottage Grove. 

“I’m hoping we can do pretty good in league,” Murphy said. “I think we can, we’re not playing like I know we’re capable of playing, and I think we can make some noise at state.” 



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