A Chase McClain bucket with less than four minutes remaining got Mountain View within two points of the fourth-ranked team in the state.

But the Cougars could not finish the job, falling to South Salem 67-63 Saturday afternoon at home in a Mountain Valley Conference boys basketball matchup.

“Basketball is a make-or-miss sport. We missed three lay-ins when we were down two and that completely changes the game if you tie it,” Mountain View coach Bob Townsend said. “The kids are working hard. That just happens sometimes.”

The Cougars also had an unforced turnover and an offensive foul, which negated a made layup, in the final two minutes.

The Saxons then made six of their final eight free throws to seal the victory.

“Once you’re down five or six late in the game where you have to chase, they’re just so athletic,” Townsend said. “It’s hard to force those turnovers with a couple of minutes to go.”

The loss was the Cougars’ third in a row and dropped them to 3-5 in the MVC. But Townsend liked the fight he saw in his team compared with the previous two games.

“Last week as a coaching staff we were spending way too much time trying to get kids to play hard and compete, but today we had a lot of fight and spirit so you get back to coaching X’s and O’s and that’s where we need to be,” Townsend said. “We can’t be wasting time on telling kids to play hard at this point in the season. We’ve got to be fine-tuning things. We got away from that last week, but today, while I’m disappointed in the loss, we had opportunities, but at least the kids showed some fight.”

After falling behind 14-4 to start the game, the Cougars closed the first quarter on an 11-0 run to take a 15-14 lead.

Tied 26-26 with 3:50 remaining in the second period, the Saxons went on a 12-3 run to enter halftime up 38-29.

South Salem extended its lead to 11 points in the third quarter and led 53-46 entering the fourth.

But McClain, who finished with 25 points, scored on three straight Mountain View possessions to get the Cougars within two points midway through the fourth period.

“We just competed on the defensive end, which we’ve been lacking the last few games, but I thought we really had a competitive spirit on that end,” Townsend said. “You force a few stops and get out in transition and we got back in the game.”

Sawyer Demeyer had 13 points for the Cougars, and Austin Fields-Wieselam added 12.

Mountain View will attempt to break its losing streak Tuesday night at Summit.

“I’m expecting another close game,” Townsend said. “(Summit coach Jon) Frazier does a great job with them and they’ve been getting better all year. It’s going to be a competitive game.”

­­— Reporter: 541-383-0307, dwiley@bendbulletin.com