Cottage Grove, Sports Zone

Lions building confidence heading into play-in game

COTTAGE GROVE – The Cottage Grove boys basketball team finished the regular season last week with a 56-52 overtime loss at home against No. 11 Marist Catholic on senior night. Despite the loss, Lions coach Seth Hutchison said it showed his team something special: as long as the effort is there, this team can compete with teams ranked much higher than them.

“You’re never pleased with the result of a loss. Every coach is gonna say that, but our keys to the game tonight that I wrote on the board were effort, effort, effort,” Hutchison said. “I’m proud of them for giving me what I asked for, which was that effort. If you watched the game, we were flying around, competing and playing hard. We had passion, and we had energy.”

In the loss, the Lions were led by two of their stars for the entire season, Cole Kishen with 16 points and Brennen Murphy with 14 points. Cottage Grove finished the regular season at 10-14 and ranked No. 22, a result that likely would miss the playoffs in other classifications. However, Class 4A has a unique postseason system. The top eight teams get an automatic playoff bid, while teams 9-24 matchup based on ranking to play in a single play-in game, with the eight winners advancing to the 16-team bracket. 

That means the 22nd-ranked Lions will travel to face North Marion on Saturday in the play-in. North Marion is a tough opponent, but Hutchison said the team’s preseason goal to make it past the play-ins is still alive and well.

“The goal coming into the season was to continue to push this program forward. Last year our seniors, and the crew, took us to the play-in game. So our goal this year was to get past that, and that goal is still there,” he said.

In order to achieve that goal, Cottage Grove is going to have to travel to a top-12 team and beat them in their own house, a tall task. What makes the Lions a dangerous team according to Hutchison? That one word: effort.

“I think that’s one of the things we’ve preached from the get go, and it’s taken them time to figure it out. That has to be our identity going forward, just playing our tails off,” Hutchison said. “I think that’s kind of evolving into our identity, and that’s a good identity to have. Just tough-nosed. We’re going to play hard and we’re going to play for each other.”

A team that’s willing to play tough and play together is a recipe for success. Hutchison knows it, and he knows his players know it, too. With that confidence and effort in hand, the Lions are on the prowl for an upset. The benefit of the Class 4A system? All you need is one good game to make the playoffs.

“We just wanted to get to a play-in game, and then you never know what could happen,” Hutchison said. “It’s a 0-0 season now. It’s a one-game season.”



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