NORTH BEND — It was a tall task for the North Bend boys basketball team on Friday hosting the No. 6 Crater Comets.
Stellar Comets sophomore Nate Bittle led all scorers with 22 points and Crater pulled away after a close first quarter for a 55-39 win. Jayden Frank led North Bend with 12 points.
“We’re gonna have to bounce back and take our shots when we get ‘em,” North Bend coach Bill Callaway said. “Keep playing hard and hopefully some things will fall for us here.”
North Bend, which fell to 1-3 in Midwestern League play, used a 7-0 run to start the second quarter to take its only lead of the game at 12-10, but it was short-lived.
Kruger Edwards scored for two then the 6-foot-10-inch Bittle smoothly fought through a foul for an and-one, made the free throw and sparked a 14-2 run that gave Crater control for the rest of the night.
“That big kid’s the real deal,” Callaway said.
Bittle was as advertised.
The five star-rated recruit with offers already from several Pac-12 schools, including Oregon and Oregon State, was the main force for Crater offensively and defensively.
When Crater (2-1 in league) had the ball, Bittle’s presence opened up opportunities for other Comets, such as Nathan Horton (nine points) and Nathan Johnson (eight points).
But Bittle was the chief offensive option. He hit a 3-pointer in the first half, hammered a two-handed dunk in the second and scored smoothly with skilled dribble drives.
But Bittle was largely contained. Frank was matched up on the 6-foot-10 sophomore most of the game and did an admirable job keeping Bittle from totally dominating every aspect of Crater’s possessions.
“I think that was Jayden Frank that did a lot of that work,” North Bend's Garrison Mateski said.
Defensively, Bittle stood in the key and altered nearly every North Bend interior shot.
It’s usually the strategy to drive right at a shot blocker in an attempt to get them in foul trouble. North Bend tried that, but Bittle’s long arms and high basketball IQ kept him out of foul trouble. Bittle also blocked a handful of jump shots, covering lots of ground and slightly deflecting them into the awaiting arms of Crater rebounders.
“We had a couple opportunities to finish behind, and we didn’t do that,” Callaway said. “That kinda drops your morale too, when you get behind. ‘Cause it didn’t happen too often, either.”
North Bend held Crater to just 10 first-quarter points, though Bittle scored the last seven. But the Bulldogs only scored five themselves against the tough, long and athletic Comets defense.
“This isn’t 4A anymore,” Mateski said. “There’s gonna be good teams. If we wanna go deep in the playoffs, there’s gonna be good teams.”
North Bend is back on the court on Tuesday at 6:45 p.m. when it hosts Willamette.