NORTH BEND — Sometimes losses aren’t catastrophic failures that are lamented long after they’re completed. Sometimes losses are more instructive than they are painful.
That’s especially true for the North Bend boys basketball team, which hung with No. 2 Churchill for three quarters before the talented Lancers pulled away in the fourth quarter for a 62-48 win Friday night in the Bulldogs’ Midwestern League debut.
“I’m pretty happy,” Bulldogs coach Bill Callaway said. “There’s some things we need to work on. We didn’t execute with some of the pressure they put on us. I think that was on me. So I told them we need to get better executing and dealing with that kind of pressure and that kind of constant go.”
It was an impressive outing for the Bulldogs against a Churchill team with just one senior and a bevy of juniors that finished third in last year’s state tournament after upsetting No. 1 Silverton in the quarterfinals.
The Lancers were averaging 77 points entering Friday’s contest, and North Bend held the high-scoring bunch to 62 points, limiting Churchill to just 9-of-25 from 3-point range, though the Lancers shot just over 50 percent overall (26-for-51). Churchill took just six free throws, none of which came in the deciding second half.
It was a defensive performance that kept North Bend in the game until a rash of 3-pointers eventually sunk the Bulldogs. Isaiah Wallace (19 points) hit a 3 with a second left in the third quarter to give Churchill a six-point lead entering the final period, then Silas Bennion (19 points) hit one on the fourth quarter’s opening possession, then another two minutes later to turn what was a three-point game at 40-37 into an 11-point game at 51-40.
“That kind of just puts a damper on it when you’re playing hard,” Callaway said. “
That run all but won the game for Churchill, but it says something that it took a late run for the Lancers to pull away.
Jayden Frank was tough to stop in the first half as North Bend went into halftime down just seven at 34-27. It was another Churchill run at the end of the second quarter to make the lead that big.
Garrison Mateski hit one of his two 3-pointers with 1:13 left in the second period to cut Churchill’s lead to two at 29-27, but Bennion hit a little runner in the lane with 55 ticks left and Wallace hit a 3-pointer with 11 seconds remaining to stretch the lead out.
The experience and calm ball movement of the Lancers benefited it in those important moments, when North Bend was at its heels and they needed a basket.
“They’re aggressive, they pass really well, they shot pretty good, so we just gotta talk as a team, play defense as a team,” Frank said.
The biggest thing for North Bend moving forward is the scoring.
Frank scored 18 points and had only six after halftime. Brady Messner hit a couple 3-pointers in the second half — one in the third and one in the fourth — Jake Simmons had five second-half points and Cooper Lynn had a couple of second-half baskets but was unlucky with some bounces on layups.
Once Churchill put Wallace on Frank in full denial, the Bulldogs had trouble with Churchill’s pressure-filled man-to-man defense. North Bend shot just 17-of-42 from the floor as a team and 7-of-18 from 3, though it was 7-of-9 from the line.
“Garrison Mateski stepping up a little bit, but he’s gotta keep it going,” Callaway said. “Cooper Lynn had some good looks that rolled around and didn’t quite fall. We do need to get everybody playing hard and thinking they can score and make plays.”
North Bend visits North Eugene on Monday in a continuation of Midwestern League play for a 5:15 p.m. tip, then heads to defending state champion Thurston on Friday for a 6:45 p.m. start.