Now that Christmas break has come and gone, the basketball teams at Creswell High School look to begin the new year on the right foot. 

For the boys, they look to continue their undefeated season. The No. 3-ranked Bulldogs (8-0) were facing a busy week, with a road game Tuesday against Junction City, a home game Thursday against Cottage Grove, and a road game Saturday against Taft. 

For the girls, who play the same schedule, they’ll be trying to make a statement against a team that beat them handily last season. The Bulldogs are 4-3, having defeated Toledo 69-29 before the holiday break.

“Three of the next four games are against top-10 teams, so that should give us a pretty good idea of how good we are,” CHS boys coach Jesse Thomas said. “But if we keep playing good defense and rebound hard, we have a chance against anybody.”

Ajay Hatch makes his return this week from a torn ankle ligament.

“He’s not in game shape yet, so we’ll bring him back slow, play him as he regains his wind,” Thomas said of the 6-foot-3 junior. “We don’t want to rush him. The hope is that he’ll be ready for league play in two weeks.”

Girls coach Tyler Hollingsworth said he feels his team is headed in the right direction.

“I like where we’re going,” Hollingsworth said. “We played Sutherlin tough (in the Bulldog Invitational), and we’re starting to figure out how to be a good team.”

Hollingsworth said he’ll be using these next two weeks of non-league games to get ready for the conference schedule, which begins Wednesday, Jan. 19 at home against Pleasant Hill. He’s hoping to have a couple of close games during that stretch. 

“It’s always good when you win by 20, but it’s more exciting to win close games because you have to work harder for them,” Hollingsworth said. “Almost all of our games have been blowouts, so I hope we have a couple of close ones just to see how we react.” 

Hollingsworth said he talked frequently with his girls about staying prepared – even when you’re on vacation.

“If you have the extra time, you can always find ways to get better,” the coach said. “If we take a day off, that’s a day that somebody else is going to get better and maybe pass you up.”