Battling inside

Myrtle Point's Luke Nicholson and Coquille's Cort McKinley battle for a rebound.

MYRTLE POINT — Coquille is coming off one of the school’s best boys basketball seasons in recent years.

The Red Devils are off to a 2-0 start to the new season after a hard-fought 56-41 win over host Myrtle Point on Wednesday night.

The win showed the team’s potential, but also the expectations of the players, many of whom didn’t look thrilled when they left the post-game locker room.

“The turnovers killed us,” Coquille coach Willy Layton said. “Especially those seniors. Every time they expect to play a perfect game.”

The Red Devils have extensive experience on the roster, and are led by “those seniors” — guards Jace Haagen and Cort McKinley.

“What sets the whole tone for the game is Cort and Jace’s intensity,” Layton said. “They bring it.”

And Layton hopes that carries over to the rest of the team.

“Our hustle won the game,” Layton said.

The Red Devils played tight defense all the way through and broke the game open by outscoring Myrtle Point 25-14 in the middle two quarters.

But the Bobcats had plenty of fight, even when Coquille led by 15 early in the fourth. Myrtle Point got consecutive 3-pointers by freshman Logan Backman and another by senior Gabe Swan, the lead was down to six.

The Red Devils righted the storm quickly with a basket by their own freshman, Bo Messerle, and a 3-pointer by Haagen and cruised the rest of the way.

“Myrtle Point played a good game,” Layton said. “They are a solid team.”

Haagen had 22 points, McKinley 13 and Messerle six to lead the Red Devils, who improved to 3-0 in league play.

On Monday, Coquille had more balanced scoring in a 70-14 win at Reedsport. Julien Temps had 12 points, Messerle and Brock Willis 10 each and McKinley and Haagen eight each in that victory.

For Myrtle Point, Wednesday’s loss was the second in a row to one of the league’s elite teams.

Defending state champion Toledo topped them 59-42 in the opener Monday night. Swan had 19 points and Nicholson 11 in that loss.

On Wednesday, Nicholson had 14 points and Swan 11.

Those are two of Myrtle Point’s seven seniors, part of the reason the Bobcats had high anticipation for the season.

“I have waited for this senior group for four years,” Myrtle Point coach Jamil Wynn said. “Now that it’s here, it’s a little bittersweet.

“This group will definitely be missed. I think of these seniors like my own kids with the amount of time I have spent with them over the last four years.”

For the first two games, though, the Bobcats have struggled, he said.

“We just can’t figure out the little things that cost us games,” Wynn said. “Once they figure out how good they can be and decide to play team basketball, they will be fine.”

Myrtle Point has the unenviable task of playing the third state tournament team from the league last season, Bandon, on Thursday night.

Coquille, meanwhile, hosts those Tigers Saturday.

Like Wynn, Layton is looking forward to the rest of the season.

“I’m proud of them, where we’re at at this point,” Layton said. “We’re just going to get better.”

The challenge for both teams is getting better quickly, given the compressed season that includes a full slate of 12 league games in the span of less than a month.

“It’s a short season,” Layton said. “Too many games and not enough practices.”

The best news is there is a season at all.

“I do wish it was a normal season, but the main thing is I’m glad they get to play,” Wynn said.

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