Cottage Grove’s Gracie Arnold scores late for the Lions as Creswell’s rally fell short on Thursday night. RON HARTMAN/CHRONICLE PHOTO

CRESWELL – The sky isn’t falling on the Creswell girls basketball team, but after a 4-6 start the Bulldogs couldn’t feel much more frustrated. 

Not only did they lose three straight games last week – the last two in heartbreaking fashion – they now face the prospect of being “on pause” for a week as one of their players tested positive for Covid.

“Pleasant Hill’s girls have been on pause for a week-and-a-half,” Creswell coach Tyler Hollingsworth said. “So the way this thing spreads, if we’re gonna get it, I’d rather get it now instead of during league play.” 

Creswell’s only home game of the week was against crosstown rival Cottage Grove, and it was a doozy. Incredibly, it was close to a replica of last year’s game in Cottage Grove, in which the Bulldogs rallied miraculously to tie the game, but lost in the waning seconds. 

This time, Creswell trailed 33-16 at halftime, then held the Lions in check for nearly four minutes until Teanna Child hit a baseline 3-pointer to make it 36-23. 

Creswell kept clawing back, as Samairah Quinones made six clutch free throws down the stretch, the last two with 47 seconds left to make it 45-43. But Gracie Arnold, the Lions’ 6-foot-1 post player, hit a free throw with 18.6 seconds left, and after a jump ball on the rebound, Jaylee Lima’s free throw at the 10-second mark accounted for the final 47-43 margin.

Then against Taft, a 49-46 overtime setback, Creswell lost a 3-point lead in regulation (with the help of a controversial call) and also had a late 3-point lead in overtime. 

“It was like we were stuck in the Twilight Zone and couldn’t escape,” Hollingsworth said.

“In reality, our defense was flying around, doing a lot of good things, but we made 36 unforced turnovers. It was crazy. 

“But the takeaway is we should have been down 20, but instead we had a 3-point lead with 40 seconds left and they hit a 3 with 28 seconds left on a controversial play – it was the epitome of our day.”

Still, Hollingsworth says better days are ahead for the Bulldogs. 

“As soon as we figure it out – maybe it happens in league – I’d much rather lose a close game like this than win by 25 or 30 because you don’t learn anything in a blowout,” he said. 

“But in these tight games you have so many crucial situations, and there’s no substitute for that kind of experience. Emme (Whitson) hit two late free throws to tie the game against Taft. Emma (Maness) hit four straight 3s against them – three in regulation and one in overtime. And Dakota (Carson) really made a difference with her hustle and her defense.”

Maness led the Bulldogs against Taft with 16 points. Quinones tallied 7 points, 7 rebounds and 6 steals before leaving with a minor knee injury. And Carson contributed 7 points, 5 rebounds and 5 steals. 

Quinones led the Bulldogs against Cottage Grove with 17 points and 6 rebounds while Whitson added 13 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 steals. Maness had 9 points and 4 steals. 

In the Junction City game, Whitson led Creswell with 15 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists while Quinones had 8 points, 6 rebounds and 4 blocks.