IVHS boys basketball keeps on winning

John Michaels
IVN Contributing Writer

The Illinois Valley boys’ basketball team continues to look like a team on a mission, going 2-1 last week and opening the Valley Coast Conference slate with a dominant win over league rival Monroe. The Cougars are now 6-1 on the year, with a 1-0 mark in the conference. They currently are ranked #14 in 2A by the OSAA.
On Tuesday, the Cougars traveled to Bonanza and lost a heart-breaking 80-77 decision. On Thursday, I.V. traveled to 3A North Valley and surprised their old Skyline Conference rival 68-60. Then, Saturday the Cougars opened VCC play with a 68-59.
On Saturday night the Cougars built a steady lead throughout the game in slaying the Dragons. Four Cougars scored in the opening period as I.V. grabbed a slim 13-12 lead after one. Sharing the ball continued to work as in the second Illinois Valley scored 14 more points distributed among four teammates and the Cougars went into half-time leading 27-23.
A 19-13 run in the third quarter gave I.V. a 10-point lead going into the final quarter, 46-36. The Dragons and Cougars increased the tempo in the final 8 minutes, but the Cougars answered every time Monroe made a run to garner the league-opening win.
Senior Daniel Polk continues to be the Cougars main man, scoring 24 points in the win. But other Cougars are stepping up and showing teams that if they focus solely on Polk, there will be a price to be paid. Zack Dugas had a great night pouring in 16 points before fouling out. Brendyn Bruner also hit double figures for the Cougars with 10 points. Jesse Connell managed to tally seven points, whileTrenton Davis and Keegan Russell chipped in four points apiece.
Thursday night the Cougars traveled to Merlin to take on North Valley and waylaid the Knights 68-60. I.V. used a 21-12 run in the third quarter to turn a 36-31 halftime lead into a 57-43 rout after three quarters. The Knights found some offense in the fourth quarter, but it was not enough as the Cougars held on for the win.
Illinois Valley turned to Polk in the final eight minutes and the senior once again responded. Polk tallied 8 of the Cougars 11 points, hitting four free throws down the stretch to allow I.V. to hold off the Knights. Only four Cougars hit the scoring column against North Valley, but all four hit double figures.
Polk led the way, pouring in 26 points on the Knight. Bruner tallied 18 and hit two clutch free throws in the final period. Dugas, who was the beneficiary of the Knights focus on Polk, scored 10 points in the first half and finished with 12. Connor Talty was the other Cougar to score in the final stanza, hitting a free throw to raise his evenings scoring to 10.
On Tuesday, the Cougars traveled to Klamath County to take on the Bonanza Antlers. The Cougars dropped a hard-fought decision 80-77 in a game that saw Bonanza shoot twice as many free throws as the Cougars.
Bonanza came out of the gates fast and the Cougars found themselves trailing after the initial period (perhaps for the first time this year) 20-18. The second period saw a reversal of fortune as the Cougars scored 20, while holding the Antlers to 14 to grab a 38-34 advantage at the intermission.
Polk came out on fire after the break, pouring in 11 points in the third quarter, but Bonanza responded with 21 points of their own to cut the lead to just one, 56-55 heading into the final eight minutes.
In the final quarter the Cougars and the Antlers went at it like two sluggers in a heavyweight fight. Bonanza took advantage of some foul calls, shooting eight free throws in the final quarter and converting six. Illinois Valley was awarded just three free throws in the final period, making one, and a total of nine in the game. The 6-1 made free throw advantage in the final quarter allowed the Antlers to gain a 25-21 edge in the period and walk away with a close win.
Polk scored 37 points in the defeat, just one point off his career-high. Bruner was next on the Cougar scoring list with 13, while Connell and Trenton Davis each accounted for eight. Dugas chipped in four points. Talty and Dillon Shirley each scored a single field goal.
The Cougars have two Valley Coast Conference games this week. Illinois Valley hosts the No. 5 2A team in OSAA, East Linn Christian on Tuesday. On Thursday I.V. travels to Oakridge.