Cascade Christian's Austin Maurer (34) shoots over Summit's Charlie Crowell at the LSI. (Photo by Jon Olson)
Cascade Christian's Austin Maurer (34) shoots over Summit's Charlie Crowell at the LSI. (Photo by Jon Olson)

Cascade Christian, the two-time reigning 3A boys basketball champion, certainly can't be accused of ducking top competition.

Before last season, the Challengers petitioned the OSAA to move up to 4A, and before this season, they petitioned for 5A. Neither effort got to a vote.

So when top-ranked Cascade Christian was invited to play against many of the state's top 6A and 5A teams in the Capitol City Classic and Les Schwab Invitational during the holiday break, the Challengers jumped at the chance.

“It's hard for a 3A school to schedule a 5A or 6A school,” coach Brian Morse said. “A lot of teams don't want to play you.”

The Challengers (4-5) didn't stack up wins at the tournaments, but they acquitted themselves quite well against the bigger schools. They went 2-5 against 6A teams, beating South Salem and No. 6 Mountainside, and topped 5A No. 1 Summit 77-75 in their LSI finale Saturday.

“These two tournaments were key to measure where we are,” Morse said. “I really want to push the guys to see how high they can compete at. And I wanted to keep the guys hungry, playing teams that can beat us They will expose our weaknesses. Now I have a laundry list of things to work on for the rest of the year before the state tournament.”

Austin Maurer, Cascade Christian's 7-foot senior center, made the LSI first team after averaging 24.5 points and 13.5 rebounds in the four games. For the season, Maurer is putting up 28.1 points, 13.8 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 3.3 blocks per game, shooting 68.0 percent from the field.

“He's playing phenomenal,” Morse said of Maurer, who has signed with Grand Canyon. “That's another reason why I wanted to play in the Capitol City and LSI, to see how our guy does against the 6A talent. He's so efficient. It's not like we were playing bad teams. It's good exposure for our program and him. It shows that this kid is the real deal.”

In the Capitol City Classic, the Challengers defeated South Salem 89-78 and lost to No. 7 Beaverton 76-71, Lake Oswego 70-58 and Century 69-59.

They opened the LSI with a 93-43 loss to No. 1 Central Catholic, overwhelmed by a Rams defense that forced them into 23 turnovers and 32.7-percent shooting, including 1 of 16 from three-point range.

“Our guys, under the big lights, they were shell-shocked,” Morse said. “Central Catholic is incredibly good. They were doing a full-court press, and everyone was playing back on their heels. It really kind of snowballed for us. We did not handle their pressure at all. Most teams don't press us.”

With a day off to regroup, Cascade Christian practiced its press-break and rebounded with a 60-54 win over Mountainside. They lost to No. 4 Tualatin 82-73 before finishing with the victory over Summit.

Morse said the Central Catholic game had the Challengers thinking, “We don't deserve to be here,” but by the end of the tournament, they proved they belonged.

“That's what I was so proud about,” he said. “The guys were just resilient to come back.”

Exactly one year after beating Summit 78-75 in the final of the Les Schwab Oregon Holiday Hoopfest at Summit, the Challengers dropped the Storm again by a nearly identical score.

Summit's Collin Moore tied the score 75-75 on a layup with 3.8 seconds left, but after a timeout, Cascade Christian threw a long inbound pass to Maurer, who caught the ball near half-court, took one dribble and passed to 6-4 senior forward Peyton Maurer, his brother, for a buzzer-beating layup.

Austin Maurer, Peyton Maurer (4.6 points) and 6-0 junior guard Jaren Fronckowiak (8.3 points, 3.4 assists) are returning starters from last season. The Challengers lost the 3A player of the year in junior point guard Drew Hall, who moved to Arizona, but are getting solid play from 6-2 freshman guard Avery Huston (15.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.7 assists) and 6-2 sophomore wing Deryk Farmer (8.1 points, 3.1 assists).

“My starting five, this could be our best team,” Morse said. “Last year we had our best depth.”

Cascade Christian is likely to dominate play in the 3A Far West League again. Morse has one more nonleague date to schedule, and he is hoping to find a strong opponent.

“If we're beating people by 40 all the time, kids are kids, and they're going to think we're invincible,” Morse said. “I need somebody to beat us just to get a reality check.”

Crane takes Crusader Classic

Two-time reigning 1A champion Crane defeated 3A Dayton 59-56 in the final of the Crusader Classic at Salem Academy on Saturday.

Cody Siegner, a 6-7 junior, shot 10 of 13 from the field and finished with 25 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks as the Mustangs (10-1) dropped the Pirates (6-6).

Senior guard Carter Nichols added 12 points, four rebounds, seven assists and two steals for Crane, which shot 51 percent from the field. Dayton got 16 points and 10 rebounds from junior Clyde Rosenberg and 15 points from senior Boston Hodges.

The second-ranked Mustangs opened the tournament with a 63-53 win over No. 1 Trinity Lutheran in a 1A showdown, a rematch of last year's quarterfinal, won by Crane 68-54.

Junior wing Josh Zander led Crane with 19 points, six rebounds, four blocks and three steals, making 9 of 10 free throws. Siegner had 17 points and eight rebounds and Nichols collected 12 points, eight rebounds and five assists.

The Mustangs edged 3A Amity 55-50 in a semifinal, getting 17 points apiece from Siegner and Nichols. Dayton turned back 2A No. 5 Mannahouse Academy 57-50 in its semifinal.

Inglish goes off

Pleasant Hill's Gavin Inglish, a 6-4 junior guard, exploded for 56 points in a 78-61 win over St. Mary's in the Christmas Classic at Cascade Christian on Dec. 23.

It is the most points scored by an Oregon player since Wilsonville's Zach Reichle scored 56 against Milwaukie in 2017. The point total is tied for 18th all-time.

Inglish shot 20 of 33 from the field, including 9 of 13 from three-point range, and made 7 of 9 free throws. He shattered the previous Pleasant Hill record of 45 points, set by Bruce Bradshaw in 1961.

Inglish is averaging 24.9 points per game for the 3A Billies (9-2), up from 22.7 as a sophomore. He is shooting 56 percent from the field, including 40 percent from behind the arc, and 74 percent on free throws. He also is averaging 8.7 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.8 steals.

“He's shown a lot of growth over the last two years,” Billies coach Darwin Terry said. “He's developed into a more mature and experienced player. He's having a special year. He has aspirations to go to college. He's scratching the surface as a junior.”