By JOHN GUNTHER/THE WORLD
COOS BAY — A couple of programs used to being in championship games will square off for the final of the OSAA/OnPoint Community Credit Union 3A boys basketball tournament at Marshfield High School on Saturday night.
Cascade Christian earned its third straight trip to the final with a 56-51 win over top-ranked Westside Christian in the first semifinal and De La Salle North Catholic advanced to the title game for the sixth time since 2014 by beating Dayton 56-40. The championship game tips at 5:45 at the Pirate Palace.
Cascade Christian is hoping for a better result after losing to Yamhill-Carlton last year and Oregon Episcopal in 2020.
“Third time’s the charm,” said Cody Reece, the Challengers’ senior point guard. “We’ve got to get it done this time.
“It’s good to be back.”
The Challengers had to win a dogfight with the Eagles to get to the final, building an 11-point lead in the second half, losing all of it, and then coming up with clutch plays down the stretch, including a number of free throws by Reece to clinch the win.
“My senior point guard stepped up at the end,” Cascade Christian coach Brian Morse said. “He showed some real poise.”
Reece had a phenomenal game with 18 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists — he would have had a triple-double but teammates missed a couple of shots off great passes inside.
“He works so hard,” Morse said. “He’s such a fierce competitor.
“He’s the guy you want to go to battle with.”
Reece said he likes to have the ball in his hands at the end of the game, but that any of his teammates would have done the same.
“I am comfortable with all our guys,” he said. “We have a good squad.”
Reece made eight of nine free throws on the night, while also handling the pressure by Westside Christian’s defense all night.
He said Cascade Christian’s 12 turnovers were a lot better than the first meeting with the Eagles earlier this year, which Westside Christian won.
“I think we executed pretty well,” he said. “The game before, we had turnovers against their press. Tonight, we were able to break it.”
Beating the press enabled Cascade Christian to get into its offense, which included getting good looks from a number of players, especially 6-foot-11 center Austin Maurer.
“We hit shots when we needed to,” Reece said. “Having the big guy in the middle to drop off to for a layup is nice.”
Maurer put the Challengers in front for good with a 3-pointer with 6:28 to go, moments after missing from the same spot.
Teammate Landon Hess grabbed the rebound from the miss and got the ball to Reece, who was going to put up his own 3 when he saw Maurer open.
“I saw him setting up there and got it to him,” he said.
Morse had a good feeling when he saw the situation.
“The first one I thought he was going to make,” Morse said. “The second one, I said, ‘He’s going to nail this one.’
“He is not going to miss twice in a row from the same spot.”
Reese had a rebound basket on Cascade Christian’s next possession and the Challengers were in front the rest of the way, though Westside Christian did get it down to one point again before Reece’s free throw string.
Cascade Christian’s biggest lead was 38-27 on a tip-in by Mauer early in the third quarter. That’s when Jaymeson Ye and the Eagles got back into the game.
Ye, who finished with 23 points, started the run with a layup and teammates Jamison Poindexter and Eli Lerman hit three-pointers. Ye added a couple of free throws and hit his own triple to beat the third-quarter buzzer and pull Westside Christian within five points. He then scored the first five points of the fourth on two more free throws and a three-point play before Cascade Christian finished off the win.
Maurer finished with 23 points and 11 rebounds and his twin brother, Peyton, added seven points. Justice Jackson had eight points and 10 rebounds for the Eagles.
After the buzzer, Morse and Westside Christian coach David Henry shared a long embrace. Henry played on Cascade Christian’s title team in 2007 and coached under Morse for several years before moving on to Westside Christian and the two remain close.
“He’s always rooting for us when we’re not playing each other,” Morse said, adding that he has the same approach. “I want all my former coaches to succeed — except when they are playing me.”
Next up is De La Salle North Catholic, like Westside Christian from the tough Lewis & Clark League and like Cascade Christian, used to deep runs in the tournament.
“It’s tough to get to a championship game,” De La Salle coach James Broadous II said after Friday’s win. “Our guys stayed resilient and persevered.”
The Knights fought off challenges from Dayton all game and finally pulled away in the fourth quarter to reach the final for the first time since winning two straight in 2018 and 19. That experience helped in Friday’s win, Broadous said.
“We’ve been here enough the guys know the importance of staying focused and being locked in,” he said.
Against Dayton, that included one big key, keeping Dayton from getting second-chance points.
“All season long, that’s been a focus of ours — limit them to one (shot) and done,” Broadous said. “The first half, they didn’t have any offensive rebounds.”
Dayton only had five offensive rebounds for the entire game and the Knights finished with a 35-22 edge on the boards.
That enabled De La Salle to focus on its offense. The Knights finished just under 50 percent from the floor and were particularly effective at the foul line, connecting on 20 of 25 free throws.
TJ Latu led the way with 17 points and Mathias Billings added 11 points and eight rebounds. The two combined to shoot 15-for-18 from the line.
“I feel we did good,” Latu said. “There’s some things we need to work on for tomorrow.”
That, he said, includes “consistently playing defense and offense together, so we can get stops and score.”
When De La Salle was playing well on defense, it often was in offensive droughts, he said. But the Knights still had too much offensive efficiency for Dayton.
“We moved the ball well,” Latu said.
De La Salle led 36-31 heading to the fourth quarter after Dayton’s Michael Freeborn scored just before the buzzer.
Latu hit a jumper, Preston Thomas a layup and Elliot Ball-Dowling a three-pointer to put the Knights in front by double digits and they led comfortably the rest of the way.
Tyler Spink led Dayton with 20 points and Freeborn added 11, but the Pirates hit just 30 percent from the field, including shooting just 4-for-23 from three-point range.
Dayton will face another Lewis & Clark League team, Westside Christian, in the third place game at 12:30 p.m. Saturday.