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Storm holds off Cougars, pushing its win streak to seven games

By Simson Garcia

Raw, with paws and claws.

There’s no better way to describe a pack of Cougars who looked ready to come into town this past week to face the Storm.

But in the end, the Storm reigned undefeated at home, picking up the win by an 88-71 score.

From the outset, it seemed as if both teams were evenly matched, almost like mirror reflections of each other. Both teams have two guards who handle the ball well, both gave big men inside who can fight in the paint, both are quick getting to the rim, and both can shoot.

And both sides came out with guns blazing, hitting their opening 3-pointers.

The Storm looked for balanced scoring from all areas of the court. The team shot often from the outside, making six 3-pointers, and also looked inside by starting fast and pushing toward the rim.

The effort earned plenty of layup attempts and free throws.

The Cougars responded by hitting five 3-three pointers in the first half and played a similar balanced attack game, moving quickly and looking often for shots in the paint.

Four minutes in, the Cougars’ first attempt inside came from 6-foot, 8-inch standout center Vince Boumann. But Chemeketa center Rashid Mahboub successfully matched him throughout the game and notably blocked Boumann on his first attempt.

The block electrified the crowd and provided the Storm with a boost.

The next few minutes was about runs. The Cougars struck first, going up 21-13 after a 14-2 run.

At just over the halfway mark, the Storm struck back, producing its own 11-0 run to retake the lead, 22-21.

The rest of the half retained its back-and-forth action, with more lead changes and exciting basketball action. The score at the half was 43-41 Chemeketa, and it looked as though the game would come down to the last shot.

But the second half was all wind, rain, and thunder for the Storm.

Chemeketa jumped out to a sizeable lead at 53-45 and continued its first-half style of play by getting to the basket and playing strong defense in the starting minutes.

Storm guard Jordan Ewell energized the crowd with his all-around offensive play and his defensive hustle.

Ewell hit a wide-open 3-pointer to start the half and ended a great series of plays by earning a steal off full-court pressure defense and calling a timeout before being tied up.

Ewell hit eight of his 10-point total in the opening minutes of the second half but remained a factor the rest of the game, gaining much attention from the Cougars on offense.

This led to a balanced attack and scoring opportunities from multiple players, including productive play from the bench.

In all, Chemeketa’s bench contributed 51 points.

The Storm was able to accomplish whatever it wanted to do for the rest of the game.

But despite the Storm’s spectacular plays on offense and its grittiness on defense, the Cougars remained tough and the game was still within reach with 10 minutes left.

The difference was the runs that the Storm made and a steady defensive effort.

Assistant coach Jeff Williams said, “We pride ourselves in being a second-half team, and I thought our guys provided the half with great effort on the defensive end.”

Simply put, the Cougars were not able to play with the same aggressiveness that they showed during the opening half.

The Cougars tried often to get the ball to Boumann, their big man inside the paint. When that didn’t work, the Storm’s pressure zone and man-to-man defense forced poor outside shooting, resulting in 2 of 11 from 3-point range and 7 of 27 overall.

The Storm eventually cruised to a well-earned victory, the team’s seventh straight. Chemeketa has a perfect 5-0 home record.

The Cougars had won its first three divisional games before falling to Chemeketa. They are just behind the Storm in the Southern standings of the NWAC, two games back of first place.

The teams will meet again on Feb. 18 in what could be a pivotal matchup, with both vying for a good playoff position.

Three of Chemeketa’s next five games are on the road. The team heads first to Southwest Oregon and then plays at Portland before being back home against Lane on Jan. 31.

When asked about the difference in planning for road games, Williams said, “We’d like to get a good foot early and get some good shots to start, but the game plan is really the same.”

Sophomore guard Kevin Brazille, who hit the team’s first 3-pointer, was injured a few possessions and did not play the rest of the game. Team reports indicate that he “suffered a severe ankle sprain and looks to be out close to three weeks.”

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