Community, Sports Zone

Billies boys drive to title in inaugural I-5 Tournament

CRESWELL – Any team that has hopes of contending late in the season for a league or state title hopes to be battle-tested early in the season. Mission accomplished for the Pleasant Hill boys basketball team as the Billies won three close games in as many days last weekend en route to winning the inaugural Battle of I-5 Holiday Tournament title – capping off the title run with a 67-65 thriller over No. 7 Douglas at Creswell High School on Saturday.

“We worked really hard this summer; we really did. We knew the kids we had, and the experience we had. The hard work that we did in the summertime, these are the moments that we’re waiting for,” third-year Billies coach Darwin Terry said. “We gotta win these types of games, and be mature. I think they showed our maturity in this game emotionally, physically, and through the execution of our offense and our defense.”

PIERRE WEIL / THE CHRONICLE. Pleasant Hill’s Matt Nguyen (3) goes up for a contested layup over Marist Catholic’s Christian Guerrero in the semifinals of the I-5 holiday tournament. Nguyen finished the semifinal win with 21 points.

Late in Saturday’s game, Pleasant Hill standout junior Gavin Inglish ran along the baseline and, after sophomore Landen Melvin hit him in stride with a bounce pass, rose up and dunked on Douglas’ Jace Page. Not only did the dunk ignite the packed Creswell gym and help Pleasant Hill win, it also pushed Inglish over 1,000 points in his career – the first Billies athlete to achieve that feat.

Inglish finished the championship game with 21 points and led the way with 29 in a 69-64 semifinal win over Class 4A No. 8 Marist Catholic. Inglish got in foul trouble in the finals, though, and up stepped Melvin, fresh off a career-high 33 points in a win over Coquille two weeks ago. Melvin led all scorers in the championship game with 26, including five 3-pointers.

“Landen knew that he had to step up, whether Gavin was in foul trouble or not in foul trouble. But obviously when he is in foul trouble, we do need a next leader up, and Landen’s a team captain this year as a sophomore. And he’s an experienced player from starting on varsity last year,” Terry said. “When they’re both together in the game, they really complement each other. But when Gavin’s out of the game, we’ve talked about him being a leader on the court for the team.”

Pleasant Hill won the inaugural I-5 tournament and moved to 7-1 on the season, with the Billies ranked No. 2 in Class 3A. In Pleasant Hill’s seven wins, the team has a point differential of +203 – an average margin of victory of 29 points. 

Part of why last week’s close games were so important was that Pleasant Hill’s only close game to that point was a 76-70 loss against Class 2A No. 1 Western Christian.

“We’ve faced a good mix of teams. We had some big wins, but that gave us an opportunity to build chemistry through those games. It wasn’t all about winning big, it was about us winning as a team,” Terry said. “Western Christian was our first test of the season … and they pushed us hard. We grew from that, and I think that game helped us be successful here.”

PIERRE WEIL / THE CHRONICLE. Inglish puts up a contested 3 over Douglas’ Bryce Dahlenburg (10) in the championship game.

The Billies, led by last year’s Mountain Valley Conference Player of the Year in Inglish, are the favorites to earn the MVC title for the first time since the 2018-19 season. 

The I-5 tournament – along with a tournament this week at Cascade Christian in Medford – wrap up a non-league schedule that could bring the Billies their first conference championship under Terry, but Terry’s making sure the team is focused on the little things first.

“The Cascade Christian one is going to be another tough tournament. There’s competitive teams in that group,” Terry said. “We have (pre-league) goals, but they’re usually small goals that we can accomplish – short-term goals that we can visualize and get the kids to visualize.”

Creswell and Cottage Grove also competed in the I-5 tournament. 

Cottage Grove took 4th after beating Taft 60-51 and falling to Douglas 77-72 in OT and Marist 65-41. Freshman Trevor Cooper led the way in the Lions’ sole win with a 24-point, 14-rebound performance. Seniors Cole Kishen and Gannon Leach each had 19 points in the semifinal loss to Douglas.

Creswell opened the tournament with two losses, a 60-56 defeat to Douglas and a 54-51 loss to Taft. The Bulldogs bounced back in the 7/8 game, though, beating Santiam Christian 69-58 behind 30 points and 9 rebounds from Tyler Whitson.



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