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Its in their hands - Central Oregonian
February 23, 2012Crook County High School
When Crook County hosts the Baker Bulldogs at 7 p.m. tonight, in a Class 4A girls basketball play-in game, a lot will be on the line for the Cowgirls.
Last year, Crook County qualified for the state tournament for the first time in several years and the team would like to return to Corvallis again this year.
After winning Special District I, the Cowgirls were guaranteed a play-in game. However, it wasn’t until Tuesday night that they were locked into the second at-large berth.
Crook County started the season with a series of solid victories. Midway through January, they were riding a five-game winning streak and were ranked 12th in the Class 4A power rankings. Since then, the Cowgirls have struggled, going 2-6 in the final eight games of the season while falling all the way to 20th in the power rankings.
However, the Cowgirls have every reason to be optimistic. All six losses have come to larger schools. Crook County (13-11) dropped a pair of games each to Bend, Redmond, and Summit — all of whom have qualified for play-in games in their own divisions.
The Cowgirls were in all six games late in the fourth quarter, and have been competitive with top-level competition all season.
Crook County has struggled late in games this season, but that shouldn’t matter against the Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs are ranked 34th with a 6-16 record. Baker has just three wins all season against Class 4A opponents. All three victories have come against hapless Mac-Hi which finished the season with a 1-19 record. The remainder of Baker’s wins come from a pair of wins against Class 3A Grant Union (5-17) and one victory over Touchet (4-15).
The Bulldogs struggle to score, averaging just 37 points a game, while giving up nearly 44 points a game. Meanwhile, the Cowgirls have scored an average of 47.5 points a game while playing against a much higher level of competition. In addition, the Cowgirl defense is holding opponents to just under 43 points a game.
The Bulldogs have struggled at the start of games this season, often finding themselves down by double digits in the first quarter. By contrast, the Cowgirls have generally started games strongly, only to struggle in the final period.
Against the Bulldogs that shouldn’t matter, as they have not shown the ability to come back from large deficits.
Baker has struggled all season against pressure defenses, and has had trouble rebounding the ball. The Bulldogs are a short team, with no one on the roster taller than 5-8.
However, that does not mean that the Cowgirls can afford to take them lightly. Because of their lack of height, the Bulldogs are versatile, and have several players able to play multiple positions.
Seniors Emily Smith and Ashley Trees have shown the ability to hit long range jumpers as has junior Michelle Birkmaier and freshman Michelle Freese.
Although only 5-8, post player Stacy Duman has shown the ability to score in the paint, while guard Marley Robb has provided a scoring lift coming off the bench.
In addition, although the Bulldogs have not managed to win a lot of games, they have played some close games against solid opposition.
The only common opponent the two teams have is Burns, who defeated Crook County by four points during the Sisters Holiday Tournament. Although Baker lost twice to Burns, both contests were close.
The winner of tonight’s game will advance to the first round of the state playoffs where they will almost certainly play a road game because of their low power rankings.
Should Crook County get past Baker, possible first-round opponents would include Sutherlin (No. 2), Mazama (No. 3), Henley (No. 4), or Tillamook (No. 5).
It is a familiar situation for Crook County who defeated No. 5-ranked Central on the road a year ago in order to reach the state tournament.
All girls first round playoff games are scheduled for Friday, March 2.