The way Trevahn Foster and his St. Mary’s teammates were leaping around their home basketball court in celebration Friday night, you would’ve thought the Crusaders had won the biggest game of their lives.
And, in some ways, they just might have.
Foster and fellow junior Francis Okeyia each scored 14 points and played pivotal roles in creating second-chance opportunities for St. Mary’s, which earned its first win in three years over crosstown rival Cascade Christian during a 51-49 thriller in the St. Mary’s High gym.
“It just felt amazing to beat Cascade, our rival,” said Foster, who also had nine rebounds and three blocked shots. “It’s like, there’s no better feeling than that.”
The Crusaders entered the game in a three-way tie for second place in the Far West League with the Challengers and Brookings-Harbor at 2-1, one game behind Sutherlin. The loss dropped Cascade Christian (4-14, 2-2 FWL) two games back of first place and alone in fourth place in the FWL, while St. Mary’s remains near the top at 9-8 overall and 3-1 in league.
St. Mary’s had lost six straight to the Challengers since a 56-36 triumph on Feb. 20, 2016, in an SCL playoff game. That year, the Crusaders took two of three from Cascade Christian and went on to win the Class 3A state championship.
“Both teams battled,” said third-year St. Mary’s head coach Kevin Dixon. “It wasn’t the prettiest game, but there was a lot of emotion and a lot of competitiveness. It’s a rivalry game and, you know, I’ve been involved in the North-South games and you just throw everything out the window and you just battle.”
Battle is exactly what the Challengers did early on to put the Crusaders on their heels, opening a 14-6 advantage after six minutes thanks to 4-for-6 shooting from 3-point range — two apiece from sophomore Donminic Lewis and junior Layne Collom. Lewis finished with a game-high 22 points to go with eight rebounds, while Collom had 15 points and eight boards.
After that, though, Cascade Christian didn’t make another 3-pointer despite 14 more attempts and struggled to keep Foster, Okeyia (11 rebounds) and sophomore Nathan Sternenberg (seven rebounds) off the boards.
“Our kids worked hard, they’re (Crusaders) just a little bigger and stronger down low and that obviously was a big difference, their offensive rebounding,” said Cascade Christian head coach Brian Morse.
The Challengers led 16-9 after one period but went ice cold in the second quarter, shooting 2-for-14 from the field as St. Mary’s rallied to take a 24-23 lead into intermission.
A 12-2 surge out of the locker room by Cascade Christian again put the Crusaders on their heels, but Okeyia took over inside the paint and helped trim his team’s deficit with five points and five boards in a two-minute span.
“Francis is a monster on the boards, and if you watch him he’s so smooth,” said Dixon. “He doesn’t look like he’s even going but he gets to the basket, and then he really pounded the heck out of the boards.”
The Crusaders faced an anxious moment when Foster went down to injury after a tip-in try and stayed on the court for several minutes before being helped to the bench for brief spell.
Another putback by Okeyia tied it at 35-all in the final minute, and senior Gavin Rajagopal hit a momentum-swinging 3-pointer at the buzzer to end the third quarter at 38-35.
“He’s struggled this year with his shooting but that was a big 3 to get us ahead a little bit, especially with good momentum into the fourth quarter,” said Dixon.
The game pinballed back and forth over the final eight minutes, with neither team able to consistently capitalize at the free-throw line or from the field. St. Mary’s went 7-for-17 from the foul line in the final quarter and 13-for-28 overall, while Cascade Christian was 11-for-22 at the line overall and 4-for-13 from the field in the final frame.
“Our biggest Achilles’ right now is we start off slow with a lot of turnovers in the first half and our free-throw shooting is killing us, as it did tonight,” said Dixon. “But the effort has been great. We’re playing our butts off.”
It was 41-all when Foster returned with four minutes to play from what he deemed a “dead leg.” He immediately made an impression with an inside basket off a nice assist by Okeyia.
Cascade Christian took its final lead on a driving basket by Collom with about 2 1/2 minutes to go at 45-44, but Foster answered with a basket in the paint and, after a Challengers turnover, Okeyia made both free throws after being fouled to give his team just enough cushion to remain comfortable.
After a stretch that saw St. Mary’s go 1-for-6 from the foul line, Cody Conner made 1 of 2 to put his team ahead 51-49, and Collom’s last-gasp drive down the lane was bothered by the defense of Rajagopal and Foster to force an errant attempt to tie the game just before the final horn.
“I’m proud of my teammates,” said Foster. “They battled and they fought their hearts out. It came down to the final two minutes and we just did what we did.”
Sternenberg finished with eight points and Rajagopal had seven points for St. Mary’s, which played without injured starting point guard Iyan Hristov.
Kiegan Schaan had five points, five rebounds and four assists for Cascade Christian, which had won three of its last four games after a 1-12 start.
“Everybody says Cascade is down, but they’ve been playing people really tough,” said Dixon. “Brian’s got 500-plus wins and been doing this a long time, and he’s got a great staff. They’re well-coached and play really good solid man-to-man defense. They have a tradition of winning and those guys battled.”
CASCADE CHRISTIAN (49): Reece 0, Sciapiti 3, Schaan 5, Coppedge 2, Lewis 22, Collom 15, Sample 0, Spurlock 2. Totals: 17-48 11-22 49.
ST. MARY’S (51): Kaeo-Wailehua 0, Banton 0, Okeyia 14, Conner 1, Reynolds 3, Rajagopal 7, Sternenberg 8, Snyder 4, Foster 14. Totals: 18-51 13-28 51.
Cascade Christian1671214— 49
St. Mary’s9151413— 51
3-point goals — Cascade Christian 4-20 (Lewis 2, Collom 2), St. Mary’s 2-9 (Rajagopal 2).
JV result — Cascade Christian won.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, email@example.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry