Creswell, Sports Zone

Thomas, Creswell boys seeking more ‘good stretches’

PIERRE WEIL / CHRONICLE PHOTO. Creswell’s Tyler Whitson lets out a roar after throwing down a two-handed dunk on a fast break in Creswell’s game against Western Christian.

CRESWELL – Monday night’s 68-52 loss to Class 2A No. 1 Western Christian proved much of what Creswell boys basketball coach Jesse Thomas suspected. The Bulldogs won the Mountain Valley Conference and finished 4th in the state last season, but the loss of four senior starters means this year’s team is inexperienced. Thomas has seen flashes of the ability his team has – the key for Creswell is to string together good stretches against good opponents.

“We were able to make some runs; we made a few runs to close it down a little bit. And we were able to string together multiple stops in a row against a really good offensive team,” Thomas said. “That part is promising. It shows us that we can do it. It’s just building it throughout the game and not having too long of periods in that game where it’s, you know, the wrong way.”

Creswell had multiple chances to swing the momentum in the loss, including a two-handed jam on a fast break from Tyler Whitson to end the first quarter. The Bulldogs also pulled within 9 points in the middle of the 4th quarter, but couldn’t quite close the gap on the 2A state favorites.

“I thought that we played extremely hard. I thought our execution, for long stretches in that game, just wasn’t good enough. And a lot of that is experience. I mean, that entire team played in the 2A title game last year,” Thomas said. “I told our guys if we’re gonna win, it’ll have to be our most disciplined and best-executed game all season. And it just wasn’t quite there.”

Whitson, the sole returning starter from last season, led the way with 22 points and 4 rebounds. Whitson played second fiddle to scorers Connor Hanson, AJ Hodge, and Max Velarde the past two seasons, but the 6-foot-2 junior is now the focal point of the offense.

“He’s a silent worker. He does this club stuff, and he plays his offseason ball, but he’s here (in the gym) all the time,” Thomas said. “The kid can score. Once he gets in a rhythm it’s hard to stop for sure. So we’re just gonna keep rolling with him.”

Whitson is averaging 17 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3.3 steals – all best marks for the Bulldog – through three games.

Losing four starters means Whitson isn’t the only one stepping into a bigger role, though. Two 6-foot-4 forwards in Carson Williamson and Riley Smith are also seeing an increased burden, and senior guard Asher Parsons will be relied on as a zone-breaking sharpshooter.

“Carson has been in the gym a lot, Riley has been in the gym a lot. You know, a lot of those guys have improved,” Thomas said. “Asher can flat out knock down threes with anybody. I mean, he can really shoot. So those guys are getting more and more comfortable being offensive weapons.”

Despite the loss to Western Christian, Creswell ended its opening week 2-1 after a 61-27 win over Coquille and a 76-34 win over Lakeview. Williamson led the way in the win over Lakeview with 19 points and 5 boards, and Smith averaged 13 points and 3.7 rebounds in week one.

Creswell’s tough non-league schedule continues with games this week against Class 4A’s Junction City and North Bend.

Then comes the Battle of I-5 Tournament next weekend with several of the top teams in the area. If Creswell wants to repeat as MVC champs, Thomas knows the most important part of non-league play is not the record.

“I want them to not worry so much about if we win the game or lose the game. I want them to worry and focus on how we’re playing,” Thomas said. 

“What we’re doing within our systems to make sure that we’re making the right plays. That’s really all I care about.”



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