South Albany High is running out of time to rediscover its winning ways.
After ripping off five straight Mid-Willamette Conference boys basketball wins, the Rebels suffered consecutive road losses at Central (76-46) and Corvallis (66-53). The team returned home Friday night, but visiting Crescent Valley never trailed while handing South a 66-53 defeat.
The Rebels (15-5, 7-5), who have fallen to fourth in the MWC standings, host Lebanon on Tuesday and Dallas on Friday to close the regular season.
“We’ve tried a lot of different stuff in practice,” said South coach Justin Smith, whose team was 8-0 at home prior to the loss. “We’re just kind of in a funk right now and we’ve got to dig down and our guys have to figure it out. They’ve got to figure it out a little bit on their own; we’re trying to help them through it, but ultimately they’ve got to be the ones to do it. We’re too good of a basketball team to be doing what we’re doing right now.”
The team held a lengthy players-only meeting after the game to discuss their recent struggles.
Junior wing Jake Costello, who scored a game-high 26 points Friday night, said it was a positive discussion.
“We were just talking about how we were going to move forward, talking about what we have to do as a team to be better from here on out,” Costello said. “After that talk, I feel very confident about where we’re going. I think we might be a little under the radar now from where we were to where we are now, but I think that could be good for us. We could surprise some people now, and I feel better about where we are.”
Tariq Harris paced league-leading CV (15-6, 10-2) with 26 points while Talanoa Hufanga added 14. Hufanga, a junior swingman, had missed the last two games with an ankle injury.
Tanner Hemzacek also finished in double figures for South, tallying 15 points. Jaden Guilford (nine points) and Carson Mlsna (3) were the only other Rebels to score.
“Crescent Valley has a great athlete in Talanoa,” Costello said. “A four- or- five-star football recruit being recruited by everyone in the nation, and they just do a good job of helping. Sean Little did a pretty good job, they had a couple kids step up and play really good defense tonight, and they probably do that every night. They are athletic and that’s what they do.”
CV, which has now won five straight and is one game ahead of Corvallis in the MWC race, defeated South 65-52 at home earlier this year.
The Raiders opened Friday’s second half on a 7-1 run, going up 41-24 on a Hufanga jumper. A Harris drive and finish through contact made it 47-30 with four minutes remaining in the third quarter.
The visitors look a 53-37 lead into the final period.
A Hemzacek layin pulled South within 14 to start the fourth, but eight straight from Harris — including a corner 3-pointer — put it away at 61-39.
“I feel like we played really hard in that second half and played overall much better as a team,” Costello said. “If we bring that, we are going to be really tough. I feel like we’ve shown that we are pretty good to this point. We have had three tough nights in a row, obviously, but we played hard in the second half.”
A Hufanga straight-away 3 was the beginning of a 10-2 run that put the Raiders in front 15-7 midway through the opening period. Little hit Niko Hansen for an easy transition layin to make it 12-5 before Harris buried a 3 to end the run.
Costello scored all 11 of South's first-quarter points as the Rebels trailed 20-11 heading to the second.
Four straight from Hemzacek trimmed it to 20-15 before the Raiders regained control. The lead swelled to 28-18 on a Hufanga steal and conventional 3-point play, and a corner triple from AJ Sandvig put CV up 31-20.
The Raiders led 34-23 at halftime.