Creswell, Sports Zone

Bulldogs topple Billies in instant classic

CRESWELL – Creswell boys basketball beat rival Pleasant Hill 56-54 Tuesday night in a back-and-forth affair that lived up to the top-10 matchup hype. The Bulldogs (10-2), ranked #8 going into the game, beat the 5th-ranked Billies (11-2) despite a furious comeback attempt late.

“We played two games like that against them last year that were similar scenarios, us with the lead late, and they came back like crazy and then we lost both of those games. One in overtime, and one in double-OT, so it was nice to keep it in regulation and get the win,” said Jesse Thomas, Creswell head coach.

The game started out well for Creswell who took a 15-9 lead after the first quarter thanks to 7 points from Max Velarde, who finished the game with 17 points. Pleasant Hill dominated the second quarter though, and took a 28-23 lead into half thanks to 14 first-half points from freshman Landen Melvin. Melvin finished the game with 20 points to lead all scorers.

The third quarter was all Bulldogs as Creswell won the quarter 21-8, taking a 44-36 lead into the final frame. One of the more impressive parts of the quarter, and the game, is Creswell did it all without one of their best players in forward AJ Hodge, who sustained a torn ligament in his knee last week.

“I felt like we played a solid first quarter and then a really good third quarter,” Thomas said. “I think they’re still kind of transitioning, getting used to not having AJ out there. Some other guys are having to step up and play more minutes and do some different things. So far, it’s nice to get that one.”

“I thought our guys played hard all game, and played smart. We had a five-point lead at halftime, but I don’t think we came out with the same intensity,” said Darwin Terry, Pleasant Hill head coach. “I think they outplayed us in those first few minutes of the third quarter and I think that’s the difference in the game, honestly.”

Creswell held the lead well into the fourth quarter, and even called a timeout leading by 10 with 3:53 to go. Pleasant Hill never gave up though, and the Billies started a comeback.

“We battled back. I’m really proud of the guys to have that perseverance to battle back. It’s a tough thing to do to come back when you’re down by 10 points. I think they did really well, I’m proud of the guys, and I think it could have gone either direction,” Terry said.

Pleasant Hill went on a run after the timeout thanks to stellar play by star sophomore Gavin Inglish, who finished the game with 19 points. The run was punctuated by an off-balance, one-footed three by Melvin to cut Creswell’s lead to 55-54 with 18.9 seconds left.

Creswell Senior Connor Hanson then went 1-of-2 from the line and the Billies had a chance to tie or win, but Inglish’s runner from the baseline missed and the Bulldogs held on to win.

“I feel encouraged that they didn’t revert mentally, like they didn’t just collapse. They kept battling, we got some big rebounds in the last couple of minutes, and I think we had one turnover in the last two minutes, which last year it probably would have been three or four,” Thomas said. “There’s some offensive pieces that we need to clean up a little bit, but when we needed stops at the very end we got them.”

Despite the loss for Pleasant Hill, Terry’s message to the team after the game was a positive one.

“I praised our players and told them we’re on their court, and it’s tough to beat a school rival on their court, to win a game that close,” he said. “There was a great crowd here tonight on both sides, Creswell and Pleasant Hill. I’m proud of the communities for coming out and cheering on the teams. The atmosphere was electric. They came out on top tonight, so we look forward to playing them in a few weeks at our place.”

Both teams now sit atop the Mountain Valley Conference standings with Creswell on top, and while both coaches’ goals are to win the conference, they know there’s still a lot that needs to be done.

“We’ll look forward to continuing to improve in all areas. We’ve been really good defensively all year,” Thomas said. “But there’s definitely plenty of things to clean up. So it’s kind of where I’m at. I feel good, feel really good about where we are, but we’re going to keep improving, tweaking some things and finish games.”

“I think our goal is to continue prepping for one game at a time. Practice I think is key, practicing at a high intensity every single practice to prepare for our opponents to play at a high level,” Terry said. “I think when you start every single game, any one of these teams can come and beat anybody. I think we’re a great basketball team. I think we can compete at the top. But we got to be focused every game.”

Bulldog top performers: Max Velarde 17 points, 6 rebounds; Connor Hanson 15 points, 4 assists; Carson Williamson 12 points, 7 rebounds

Billies top performers: Landen Melvin 20 points, Gavin Inglish 19 points



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