Cougar boys basketball off to a quick start

John Michaels
IVN Contributing Writer

The Illinois Valley boys basketball team is looking like it might be a force to be reckoned with as the Cougars ran roughshod over their opponents while hosting three nonleague games last week. The Cougars are now 4-0 on the year and currently are ranked #12 in 2A by the OSAA.
On Tuesday, the Cougars thrashed Glide 66-47. Then I.V. swept a Friday-Saturday combo against Days Creek 52-35 and Umpqua Valley Christian 52-36. Two weeks ago in their opener, the Cougars overwhelmed former Conference foe Rogue River by a score of 74-22. The Cougars average margin of victory in their four wins is an astounding 26 points per game.
And while the Cougars look to be formidable this year, senior swingman Daniel Polk might be putting himself in the conversation for Player of the Year honors. Polk is averaging 30 points a game in the Cougars’ four contests this year, and his scoring was instrumental in all three of I.V.’s wins this week..
On Saturday night the Cougars won every quarter in demolishing the Monarchs. UVC could not stop Polk, as the senior finished with 30 points on the evening with five-3-pointers. Polk’s dominance was particularly on display in the third quarter. Polk scored 12 of Illinois Valley’s 18 points in the period, outscoring the Monarchs by himself 12-11. Polk’s hot hand allowed the Cougars to extend a 24-17 halftime lead into a 42-28 margin, giving the Cougars a cushion that they would not relinquish.
Brendyn Bruner also hit double figures for the Cougars with 11 points. Trenton Davis chiped in four points, while Zack Dugas tallied three. Connor Talty and Keegan Russell also scored a basket apiece in the win.
Friday night was a slightly different story as the Cougars blitzed the Days Creek Wolves in the final quarter to come away with a lopsided victory. The Cougars had balanced scoring in the opening quarter as four different places scored and I.V. grabbed an early 14-10 after one period. The teams battled back and forth through the next two quarters with the Wolves actually cursing the deficit to three, 32-29 going into the final quarter.
Illinois Valley turned to Polk in the final eight minutes and the senior answered the bell. Polk tallied 15 of the Cougars 20 points in the quarter as I.V. outscored the Wolves 20-6 to win going away. Polk finished the game with 35 points, tied with the entire Days Creek team and just three short of his career-high of 38.
Russell was the other Cougar to score in the final stanza, collecting all five of his points in the quarter. Bruner also finished with five points and Dugas pitched in three. Jesse Connell also scored for the Cougars, tallying four points before being disqualified.
On Tuesday, although being in control for the entire game, the Cougars once again pulled away with a dominant fourth quarter to garner a win over the Glide Wildcats. The Cougars led by one, 14-13, after the first period. The Cougars added another two points to the lead in the second stanza, leading 25-22 at the intermission. Balance again was the key as seven I.V. players scored in the first half.
Polk took charge after the break, pouring in 15 points in the third quarter as I.V. pushed the lead to eight, 50-42. In the final quarter, the Cougars ratcheted up the defense and outscored the Wildcats 16-5 to win the game going away. Three I.V. players scored in double figures, led by Poles 29 points. Bruner was next on the Cougar scoring list with 12 and Dugas also notched double figure with 10. Connell tallied six, Russell had five points while Talty and Mike Fowler each scored two points.
The Cougars hit the road for three games this week. Nonleague games Tuesday at Bonanza and at Thursday at North Valley will precede the Valley Coast Conference opener Saturday at Monroe.