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NORTH BEND — The North Bend boys basketball team knew that its first season in the Midwestern League would be tough, and it’s lived up to that billing.

North Bend's Jake Simmons drives the ball Tuesday during a game against Willamette at North Bend High School. Willamette beat North Bend 57-37.

After the Bulldogs cut a double-digit deficit down to just six at halftime, the visiting No. 5 Willamette Wolverines outscored the Bulldogs 30-16 in the second half to pull away for a 57-37 win on Tuesday night. Luke Smith led all scorers with 17 points and Jayden Frank led the Bulldogs with 16, though he was held to just two in the deciding second half.

“Early in the second half it was pretty easy (for Willamette),” North Bend coach Bill Callaway said. “We took some long shots, long rebounds or a turnover and they got their guards out from that zone and got some layups. An eight-point game is all of a sudden 16 and again you’re fighting uphill.”

Following a theme lately, North Bend found itself in an early hole and had to climb out of it.

With North Bend starting the game in a matchup 1-2-2 zone defense, Smith hit a pair of 3-pointers to start and Willamette made its first four shots as well, jumping to an early 10-2 lead after just three minutes of play.

“We haven’t started well in, shoot, I don’t know how long,” Callaway said. “That’s definitely not a good hole we want to continue to dig ourselves into.”

North Bend crawled back from the early deficit.

The Bulldogs closed the second quarter on a 9-2 run, capped by a fortuitous sequence that sent the Bulldogs into the locker rooms with momentum.

Jacob Curtis, who scored 10 first-half points with five offensive rebounds (six total) and three steals, was called for an offensive foul after he hooked a Bulldog with his elbow to get a shot. It was his third and he went to the bench.

On the ensuing in-bound with about 10 seconds left, the pass was errant and nearly stolen by Willamette, but caromed out of bounds near midcourt, giving North Bend a chance to score before the buzzer. Frank skied for the lob pass near the basket and banked in a 7-footer at the buzzer to cut Willamette’s lead to 27-21.

“In the second quarter, we kind of just kept pecking away,” Callaway said. “We picked up our intensity a little bit and tried to match theirs. ‘Cause they came out and got after us. We flinched early, but we jumped back.”

Cooper Lynn then scored his only basket of the night at the beginning of the third quarter to cut the deficit to four, but that was as close as the Bulldogs got.

Owen Cross, who finished with 15 points, hit a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession, starting a 9-0 Willamette run that all but sealed the result.

Starting from Lynn’s basket with 7:18 on the clock, Willamette outscored North Bend 30-14, including a 14-3 run in the fourth to pull away.

“To start the second half they throttled us with that zone,” Callaway said. “We weren’t quite prepared to handle that, or at least we didn’t get back.”

North Bend has a shot at its second Midwestern League win on Friday when it visits Ashland. The boys will play the first game of the doubleheader, at 5:30 p.m.

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Sports Reporter