PLEASANT HILL – For a couple of members from Creswell’s 2004 state championship basketball team, Sunday’s first-ever Creswell-Pleasant Hill alumni basketball doubleheader was an awesome trip down the Billies’ lane.
For Pleasant Hill’s Braedyn Cantrell, the star of the day with 44 points, it was business as usual as he once again proved to be a major thorn in the Bulldogs’ side.
“I have good history against them, for sure,“ Cantrell said after leading his team to a 96-92 double-overtime victory in the second game. Cantrell’s 3-pointer with five seconds left in the first overtime tied the game and forced the second OT. “Nobody ever wins by a big margin when we play Creswell – it’s always a thriller. I think every game-winning moment I’ve ever had was against Creswell.”
In 2022, his senior year, Cantrell hit the game-winning free throws as Pleasant Hill swept Creswell, 62-61 and 60-56.
Since then, Cantrell has been staying in shape and playing a lot of basketball.
“I had a walk-on offer to play at South Umpqua,” said Cantrell, whose career-best game with the Billies was a 30-point effort against Harrisburg. “I didn’t take it, and it’s haunted me ever since. I still think about it all the time. I really wish I would have taken it, or at least tried.”
The rosters were essentially split up with those who graduated before 2014 playing in the first game, and post-2014 grads playing in the second game.
Max Velarde, a 2023 Creswell grad, was a one-man wrecking crew for the Bulldogs in the fourth quarter, scoring 11 straight points during one stretch, but it wasn’t enough to overcome Cantrell.
In the first game, last-minute buckets by Charlie Ward and Travis Fritz helped the Billies hold on for a 59-54 victory.
Despite the loss, Bulldogs coach Jesse Thomas said it was a blast seeing everyone – whether it was old high school teammate Ryan Lockard, who graduated in 2003, the year before Creswell won its second state title in five years – or some of his recent graduates.
Lockard made the longest trip of any player, coming up from Costa Mesa, Calif. He and Thomas went to the USC-Oregon game Saturday night.
“It’s fun to have everybody here. Besides seeing a lot of my old buddies, I get to reconnect with everybody I’ve coached in the younger guys’ game.”
The idea of the two rival schools playing an annual alumni game was the brainchild of Pleasant Hill coach Darwin Terry. Next year’s get-together will be at Creswell, and the two schools will take turns hosting the event.
“Hopefully we’ll shoot a little better next year,” Thomas said. “This gives guys something to look forward to every year. We had about 25 guys who wanted to play this year.”
Thomas said he was relieved nobody was keeping track of missed shots.
“I went on a little run in the third quarter, and I was feeling OK. I went to drive baseline and my leg and hip and back just tightened up and I lost the ball. I had to go out. I missed a free throw, missed a layup, missed a few wide-open 3s; I’m glad nobody was charting my percentage.”