Creswell, Pleasant Hill, Sports Zone

Mountain Valley tournament: CHS boys, girls make playoffs

SPRINGFIELD – The top teams in basketball’s Class 3A Mountain Valley Conference (MVC) gathered last Saturday for the league tournament to decide playoff teams and seedings. The Creswell Bulldogs were the key beneficiaries on the day as the boys team took down Sisters 54-40 for the third and final automatic playoff spot in the conference, and the girls beat rival Pleasant Hill 32-22 for the No. 1 seed in the MVC.

“We were scrappy. We didn’t rebound as well as I would like, but I told them after the game, giving up 22 points against anybody is hard to do. So we did a really good job defensively,” said Creswell girls coach Tyler Hollingsworth. “Offensively, we had our own issues there, but we were able to get more stops than them, which was nice. I mean, our team’s been playing super hard all year long, and that’s been our key – playing really good defense. And we did it tonight.”

Despite losing to No. 6 Pleasant Hill three times already this season, once in the Battle of I-5 Tournament and twice in league play, the Bulldogs were able to get over the hump thanks to 9 points from Dakota Carson and dominant team defense. Creswell earned its third straight postseason appearance as well.

“I just told them that I’m just super proud. We’ve been scrapping and clawing, basically every game we played (Pleasant Hill), and we’ve gotten better and better against them, but we kept falling a little bit short,” Hollingsworth said. “We’ve been talking about one of our goals is to have a chance to host the playoff game, so the league tournament title is huge for us.”

The Bulldogs grabbed the No. 7 seed and host No. 10 Coquille on Saturday at 6 p.m. with a spot in the quarterfinals on the line. While the girls already clinched a postseason berth before Saturday’s game, the Bulldog boys faced off with Sisters for the third and final MVC automatic bid. Creswell handled Sisters 54-40 behind 22 points (10-of-14 shooting) and 8 rebounds from junior Riley Smith, giving Creswell a 14-win season and playoff berth a season after losing four starters from its team a season ago. That team finished fourth in state.

“I’m so proud of them. I think we could just as easily be 19-6 as we are 14-11, you know, a few things change in some of those games, but I’m very happy for them,” said boys coach Jesse Thomas. “I think that the expectation is getting to the point now where we get to the playoffs every year, and we find a way to get it done.”

Creswell, seeded No. 14, hosts No. 19 Yamhill-Carlton on Tuesday at 6 p.m., with the winner traveling to No. 3 De La Salle North Catholic on Friday for a round of 16 game. While the Bulldogs may not be as adaptable as a season ago, Thomas said the team has an almost equally-important skill – knowing who they are.

“Mostly for us, we’re going to do what we do, and (opponents) are either going to be able to handle it or they’re not. We’re not a team that can really change our identity from game to game. We got to kind of just play ours and see how it shakes out,” he said. “But I like our chances against anybody. So if we put a good game together, I think we’ll be right there with a chance to win.”

Billies prep for playoffs, earn two POTY awards

While the Billies girls did lose to Creswell, they still earned the MVC regular season title, going 12-0 in conference play. Against Creswell, Pleasant Hill was without Claire Crawford, who was announced after the game as the back-to-back MVC Player of the Year, and second-leading scorer Karsyn Stapleton injured her hand on the first play of the game, pushing through the injury but going scoreless on the night.

“The loss wasn’t for lack of effort. There was a stretch, well, multiple stretches in the game, where we just couldn’t generate looks, and then the ones we did generate, didn’t go in. And you could tell that wore on us a little bit,” said Billies coach Paxton Miller. “And that’s human nature. When you’re not able to score, those things can oftentimes compound and hurt you on the other end.”

The Billies finished the regular season 17-6 and undefeated in regular-season conference play in Miller’s first season at the helm – an accomplishment Miller said was all about the players.

“I’m just proud of the group that we have. The reality was, we had a handful of girls that were all stepping into new roles. Obviously, Claire is a really good player and Brooke (Weimer) is a really good player. But outside of that, everyone else who plays is either a freshman or somebody that stepped into a role much larger than they’ve ever had,” he said. “We knew it would take time, we knew it wasn’t always going to be pretty along the way, but just the commitment across the board, the fortitude and toughness – a lot of these games that we’ve found ways to win is a testament to them.”

No. 6 Pleasant Hill hosts No. 11 Nyssa on Saturday at noon in the second round. A win for the Billies would likely set up a quarterfinal game against No. 3 Amity – a team the Billies lost to 62-41 on the opening night of the season.

The 4th-ranked Billies boys closed out the MVC tournament facing No. 7 Harrisburg in a game to decide the top boys seed in the MVC. The two teams split the regular-season series, but Harrisburg came out on top Saturday 38-32, holding Pleasant Hill to a season-low scoring output.

Despite still being ranked in the top five, Pleasant Hill dropped to No. 9 in the playoff seeding and will travel to No. 8 Neah-Kah-Nie on Friday at 6 p.m. Before the league title game, junior Gavin Inglish was named MVC Player of the Year for the second straight season.



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