Entering the fourth quarter the Rancho Cotate Men’s Basketball team led by just two points. By the time the fourth quarter was over they had won by 20. The Cougars outscored the Lobos 27-9 in route to a 63-43 victory. This was the second straight conference win for the Cougars as they improved to 9-8 on the season.
Andrew Pengel again led the Cougars in scoring, with 21 points and 4 made threes. While Junior Guard Jayvion Scott took over the fourth quarter, scoring 10 points in route to a 16-point night. His fourth quarter offense consisted of a thunderous dunk, ankle breaking cross overs and acrobatic finishes at the rim.
According to Head Coach Mike Washington, all the fourth quarter success could be attributed to the Cougars defense.
“I thought we dug in more on defense in the fourth quarter,” Washington said. “We took more pride in contesting three-point shots.”
Washington also said the Cougars cleaning up the defensive glass in the fourth quarter was a big factor in the run. The Lobos had the edge in the three-point and rebounding department the first three quarters, but the Cougars took control of the game by winning both of those categories in the final stanza.
Often times basketball games are won and lost by which team wants it more and which team plays harder. The Cougars dug deep inside and played harder than the Lobos and this is what resulted in the 27-9 fourth quarter.
One reason the Cougars struggled with rebounding and hustle plays was the absence of senior big man Nate Fredlund. Fredlund missed the game with an illness. His absence meant freshman big man Issac Candelaria’s minutes were increased.
Coach Washington was pleased with Candelaria’s performance, but also noted how missing Fredlund was an adjustment for the Cougars at the start of the game.
“It was a big adjustment,” Washington said. “Without Nate it was harder to get rebounds, but I thought Issac did a really good job, especially for being a freshman, of shutting down Elsie Allen’s big guy by getting him in foul trouble and cleaning the glass as well.”
Washington was very complementary of how his young players are continuing to grow. He credits this growth to the upper-class men leading by example and the freshman figuring out ways to make an impact by focusing on what they do well.
During a rebuilding year the most important thing is growth by the young players. It’s obvious for those who have been around the team that they are growing and are becoming more competitive as the season goes on.
Once the Cougars cleaned up the rebounding and defensive intensity, it allowed them to get out in transition and score easier baskets. The player who benefited the most from the Cougars improved intensity was Jayvion Scott.
Scott is an attacker. Every time the ball is in his hands he’s looking to attack and get to the basket. Washington noted it was harder for him to score early on against the Lobos because the Cougars weren’t moving the ball as well as they did against Ukiah. However, once the Cougars picked up the defense Scott was able to take over the game.
“We weren’t really moving the ball that well in the first half, but by the second half we started to figure it out,” Washington said. “Jayvion did a really good job settling into a rhythm in the fourth quarter picking his spots, choosing when to attack and just keeping the game simple.
The player emerging as the Cougars top scorer is sophomore guard Andrew Pengel. Pengel finished with 21 points on the night and splashed home 4 three pointers. Pengel is described by Coach Washington as a complete scorer. This means he can score in multiple ways, not just as a driver or shooter.
“He’s getting it done on all three levels,” Washington said. “He’s hitting threes, getting layups and getting to the free-throw line. That’s why he’s scoring so much because he’s doing it on so many different levels. He’s doing a good job not settling for threes, but still being aggressive when the three-point shot is open.”
The last thing Washington stressed was the resiliency and toughness the team shows. It’s rare to see a young team have this much resiliency and toughness. Most young players tend to put their head down and dwell on mistakes instead of moving to the next play. The Cougars young players don’t seem to be affected by a turnover or missed shot, they bounce right back to the next play. This shows Washington has a foundation in place; the next step is the players continuing to develop their games.
Ukiah and Elsie Allen were the warmup for the Cougars. They travel to Healdsburg High School for a Tuesday night matchup against Healdsburg and then follow that up with a road game against Maria Carrillo High School. The Cougars are 2-0 in conference and tied with Healdsburg, so Tuesday will be a big game. The game starts at 7:30 p.m.