By JOHN GUNTHER/for OSAAtoday
COOS BAY — Three years in a row, Cascade Christian had a double-digit lead at halftime of the state championship game and watched the opponent come storming back.
That was the focus of the halftime talk Saturday night as the Challengers led Westside Christian 36-26 heading to the locker room in the 3A boys OSAA/On-Point Community Credit Union championship game at Marshfield High School.
“Our big thing was to extend it to 15, 20, 25 points,” Cascade Christian coach Brian Morse said.
Mission accomplished. The Challengers outscored the Eagles 21-12 in the third quarter and led by as many as 28 points on the way to a 76-54 victory.
Ultimately, Cascade Christian lost the final to Oregon Episcopal in 2020 (35-33) and to Yamhill-Carlton in the culminating week tournament to the shortened season in 2021 (52-48). The Challengers managed to hold off De La Salle North Catholic last winter (52-45) and now they are back-to-back champions.
“It’s amazing,” said Austin Maurer, the team’s junior center. “I don’t have words to describe it.
“We’ve done it two years in a row. We’ve put a lot of work in. We want to do it again next year.”
Maurer was a huge part in the win, literally and figuratively. He had a game-high 31 points and 14 rebounds, and was a big part of extending the lead.
“In the third quarter, he kind of went into beast mode,” Morse said.
Maurer had a couple of 3-pointers and a couple of big dunks in the quarter.
He was a menace inside with his size and touch, but a key to building the halftime lead was an element that really improved when he was on the sidelines with a broken arm much of the season.
Cascade Christian stretched the lead late in the second quarter with two fast-break hoops by different players who got ahead of Westside Christian’s defense — Peyton Maurer and Deryk Farmer.
“We are fast,” Morse said. “We like to get out and run. When Austin went out with his injury, we ran, ran, ran, ran, ran.”
The equation Saturday was simple, said point guard Drew Hall.
“If our 7-footer can get a rebound and kick it out to me and I can get down the court and facilitate, that’s hard to guard,” Hall said.
Hall finished with seven assists and also had 20 points.
The Challengers also started lighting it up from outside. Ultimately, they finished with eight 3-pointers as a team, including two by Hall and one each by Peyton Maurer, Fronckowiak, Cannon Anderson and Triston Wallace, the team’s lone senior.
The game was close well into the second quarter. Westside Christian led 15-13 through one, but couldn’t keep up.
“They started making some shots, and obviously some foul trouble affected things,” said Westside Christian coach David Henry.
The Eagles also were impacted by an injury from the night before in a semifinal win over Oregon Episcopal to Jonah Jones.
“Jonah was a shell of himself,” Henry said. “I’m proud of him for making a go of it for his team.”
Jones had six points and five rebounds, but wasn’t nearly as effective as he was the first two days of the tournament.
Dax Hanzlik led the Eagles with 16 points and Ethan Chiong had 13 points, including three 3-pointers. Will Flicker added nine points.
The Eagles made all eight of their free throws and shot 40 percent from the floor, but didn’t necessarily often get good shots, which was Cascade Christian’s goal.
“I’m convinced we have the best defense in the state,” Morse said. “We make teams take longer possessions, and longer possessions help us out.
“I thought we did a great job.”
“We forced them to take tough shots,” he said.
The result was the Eagles coming up short in their first trip to a championship game since 1988.
Henry said he was proud of his players for their season, which included losses to just two teams — Cascade Christian in the regular season and championship and De La Salle North Catholic three times in league play and the Lewis & Clark League playoffs.
“We talk about making the positive every day,” Henry said. “Hopefully they enjoy the scenario.”
Cascade Christian, meanwhile, won its second in a row and fourth in the long tenure of Morse as its coach.
“It’s really special,” Morse said. “I’ve won them before and every experience is different and special.
“I’m so happy for these kids. We’ve worked so hard.”
“It’s a great feeling, how much we’ve improved,” he said.
Notes: Jones, Hall and Maurer were on the all-tournament first team, selected by the coaches, along with De La Salle North Catholic’s Jaylen Hill and Oregon Episcopal’s Levi Edelman. The second team included Chiong, along with De La Salle North Catholic’s Quincy Aranda, Boston Hodges of Dayton, Gavin English of Pleasant Hill and Ben Mayo of Banks. Pleasant Hill won the sportsmanship trophy.