Polk leads charge in ‘hot and cold’ Cougars winter break

John Michaels
IVN Contributing Writer

The Illinois Valley High School boys basketball team’s winter break could be described like the opening of Charles Dickens’ classic “A Tale of Two Cities.” The novel’s famous opening line is ‘’It was the worst of times; it was the best of times.’’ The Cougars’ winter break started and ended with disappointing Valley Coast Conference losses. The middle had the I.V. celebrating three important wins, including a pair of VCC wins. The Cougars are now 9-3 on the year, with a 3-2 mark in the conference. They currently are ranked #16 in 2A by the OSAA.
On Tuesday, Dec. 19 IVHS hosted East Linn Christian and dropped a 66-37 conference decision to the fifth ranked Eagles. On the following Thursday, the Cougars traveled to Oakridge and dominated their league foe 91-59. On the Thursday after Christmas, I.V. hosted a non-league game with Elton and pounced on the Elks 71-62. On the Thursday following New Year’s IVHS hosted Brandon and clawed out a 58-47 league win over the Tigers. Finally, last Saturday the Cougars traveled to Gold Beach and were edged 66-60 by the Panthers.
Nothing seemed to go right for IIVHS in its conference game against East Linn Christian. The No. 5 Eagles jumped out to a 19-14 lead after one period and just increased the lead throughout the game. After increasing the lead to 34-22 at the half, the Eagles put the game away with a 12-4 run during the third period.
Senior Daniel Polk was the Cougars primary weapon, scoring 20 points in the loss before fouling out of the game. Other Cougars who got in to the scoring column during the loss included Zack Dugas and Jesse Connell who had 6 points apiece, Michael Fowler who hit a 3-pointer in the final quarter and Brendyn Bruner who was held way below his average with just two points.
On Dec. 21, IVHS traveled to Oakridge and back on track with a wire-to-wire 91-59 romp. I.V. opened the game with a 24-5 run in the first period. They maintained a solid lead through the first half, holding a 42-25 advantage at the intermission. The Cougars extended the lead to 62-40 after three, before sending in the bench to finish the game in the final quarter.
Dugas was off to a quick start with 12 points in the opening stanza, before finishing the game with 19. Polk was again the leading scorer for the Cougars tallying 24 points on the night without playing in the final quarter. Connor Talty played one of his best games of the season hitting a 3-point shot in each quarter on the way to 16 points. Bruner rallied from his earlier performance getting 11 points on the night. Fowler added seven for I.V. Trenton Davis put in a pair of buckets to register four points. Brantly Arroyo also chipped in four points, while Myles Engberg-Stone and hit a 3-pointer and Tanner Brazil put in a regular field goal and two points for the Cougars.
The Elkton Elks visited Cave Junction Thursday, Dec. 28 and went home on the short end of a 71-62 decision. Although I.V. grabbed an early 21-13 lead after the opening stanza, Elkton chipped away at the lead in the middle two quarters to close the gap to 47-46 heading into the final eight minutes of action. Once again, Polk came to the Cougars’ rescue when they needed him most. Polk scored 13 of the Cougars 24 points in the final quarter as I.V. outran the Elks 24-18 in the final quarter.
Polk came out on fire after the break, pouring in 13 points in both the third and fourth quarters, on his way to a game-high 37 points for the second time this season, just one point off his career-high. Bruner was next on the Cougar scoring list with 16, while Connell accounted for eight. Dugas chipped in 6 points. Talty and Davis each scored a single field goal.
I.V. celebrated the New Year with a 58-47 league win over the Bandon Tigers on Thursday, Jan. 6. The Cougars were just a little bit better than the Tigers in each quarter, slowly building the lead from 9-8 after one period to 27-24 at the break. Polk scored seven of I.V.’s 13 points in the third quarter and they extended the lead by two more to 40-35. The final quarter was perhaps the Cougars’ finest of the evening as they outscored Brandon 18-12 to finish off an important VCC win.
Polk poured in 29 points to lead I.V. scoring. He was the only Cougar in double figures on the evening. Dugas added nine and Bruner 8, while Talty scored 5, Davis 4 and Connell 3 to close out I.V.’s scoring.
Last Saturday the Cougars traveled to Gold Beach and dropped a 66-60 league decision. Although coach Tony Hess would not use it as an excuse, it appears that the Cougars suffered from a case of “home-cooking” that gave a huge advantage to the Panthers. Three I.V. starters, Polk, Dugas and Connell fouled out and a fourth, Bruner was tagged with 4 fouls. The Cougars were whittled for twice as man fouls as the Panthers, 26-13.
In spite of not blaming the officiating, Hess did admit, “Foul trouble really kept us from developing any significant momentum throughout the game.”
After jumping out to a 20-12 lead after the opening quarter, I.V. managed to hold on despite foul trouble to hold a 32-28 lead at intermission. The Panthers outscored I.V. 20-13 in the third quarter to grab a slim 48-45 lead. Gold Beach managed to add 3 more points to the lead in the final quarter after the previously mentioned Cougars fouled out of the game.
Polk was again the focal point of the Cougar offense with 19 points before being tagged with his 5th foul. Bruner was the only other I.V. player in double figures with 10. Connell added nine before fouling out and Dugas had seven before being disqualified. Davis tallied 7 points and was tagged with 3 fouls. Talty and Fowler each hit a 3-pointer to make it into the scoring column, and Keegan Russell was able to tally a field goal and 2 points.
The Cougars have two Valley Coast Conference games this week. I.V. hosts Reedsport Tuesday at 6 p.m. On Saturday I.V. will host No. 11 Lowell at 3 p.m.