Challengers, Crusaders gear up for quarters

Cascade Christian boys head basketball coach Brian Morse knows enough about Valley Catholic to draw one major conclusion about his squad's Class 3A state quarterfinal matchup tonight.

"We'll have to come up with our best game of the year," said the 25th-year coaching veteran, who has watched the Valiants on film twice and seen them once in person this season.

The fourth-seeded Challengers (22-5) begin their journey into the eight-team tournament at 8:15 p.m. at North Bend High.

Advancement won't be easy.

Top-seeded Valley Catholic (22-3), which defeated Burns 73-36 in the first round, has captured three-straight Lewis & Clark League titles and has won 15 straight. The squad is led by Joel Sobotka, a former Portland State head coach and University of Portland assistant.

"For 3A basketball, to have somebody with his experience coming down and coaching gives a lot of credibility to our classification," Morse said.

Cascade Christian, the Southern Cascade Hybrid champion, is riding a 10-game winning streak. The Challengers, who lost to Blanchet Catholic 66-60 in a state consolation game last winter, have won 16 of their last 17 games.

Junior point guard Jake Brown (5-11), sophomore wing Cody Coggins (6-2), senior guard Alex Miller (6-0), senior wing Troy Thompson (6-2) and junior post David Sellers (6-7) will start tonight.

Both teams match up well with similar height, athleticism and depth.

"It's not like they have a weak guy out there," Morse said. "None of our guys can take time off defensively. You take a possession off and they will exploit you."

The versatile Sellers will be matched by Gabe Taylor, Valley Catholic's slashing 6-7 junior. Miller will go up against 6-1 junior Jarrett Gray, a first-team all-league pick.

"(Taylor) attacks the basket really hard," Morse said. "He's got a great spin move inside and can make the 12 to 15-foot jumper. ... The game I was watching he had two big dunks and he's a leaper who is very active on the baseline."

Off the bench, Cascade Christian can go to players like Seth Knox (6-5), Aaron Cesaro (6-5), Stephen Joffer (6-2), Christian Kammerzell (6-2) and Dante Olson (6-2). Valley Catholic counters with Alex Butz (6-7), Canaan Sellers (6-3), Carlos Catibayan (6-3) and Kazuma Lane (6-1).

Morse said his squad has yet to play a "32-minute great game," but he was pleased with his team's resiliency in its first-round playoff win over Creswell last week. Cascade Christian rallied from an eight-point deficit in the final four minutes to prevail. Brown came up big with 17 points on 8 of 10 shooting in the triumph, but Miller, the SCH player of the year, was held scoreless. Morse doesn't expect that to happen again.

"Like I told the team, it's a testament to the rest of the team that he can go scoreless and we can still win against a really good Creswell team," Morse said. "It really shows teams they can't just shut one of our guys down.

"Alex came into the gym and worked hard and is focused and ready to go. He makes so many things happen for us offensively."

In other boys quarterfinal games, Horizon Christian plays Tualatin Oregon Episcopal, Portland Adventist takes on Dayton and Blanchet Catholic faces De La Salle North Catholic. The Challenger/Valiant winner will play the winner of the Blanchet Catholic/De La Salle North Catholic contest in the semifinals at 8:15 p.m. on Friday at Marshfield High.

St. Mary's

The second-seeded St. Mary's girls basketball team will play eighth-seeded Scio in the eight-team Class 3A state tournament quarterfinals at 6:15 tonight at Marshfield High in Coos Bay. The Southern Cascade Hybrid champion Crusaders, led by first-year head coach Richard Vasey, have triumphed in their last 12 games and are 24-2 overall.

Last year, Rainier topped St. Mary's 57-46 in the first round of the 3A state playoffs.

Scio, the PacWest Conference champion, is led by coach Justin Duke. The Loggers (20-9), who own a five-game winning streak, are new to the 3A tournament, but have played in the last two 2A state finals.

The Crusaders beat Portland Adventist Academy in the first round to advance, while Scio topped Amity to move on.

Each squad likes to play fast, press hard and shoot the 3-ball often — and both teams feature a pair of sisters who have been pivotal in those efforts.

Riley and Paige Graham, who were both honored to the all-league first team, carry much of the Loggers' scoring load. Riley was the conference player of the year.

Those two — along with Maranda Keesee, Marcy Ortiz and Zoe Shelton — all have vast state experience.

Meanwhile, St. Mary's counters with 5-foot-3 junior guard Emily Alvarez — the SCH co-player of the year — and 5-2 sophomore guard Rose Alvarez. Those two will start along with sharp-shooting junior wing Lillian Martin (5-6), sophomore wing Viv Juncal (5-7) and junior post Elise Vasey (5-10).

"It is going to be tough," Richard Vasey said. "We are almost the spitting image of each other. They look to press, run and look to score a lot of points. It has the potential of being a really exciting game if it opens up."

There won't be any tall challenges this time around for the Crusaders, who faced a 6-2 post in their opening-round triumph. Scio, like St. Mary's, is a bit undersized.

"You could probably line us up and we'd be about the same height," Vasey said.

Vasey said his squad will be ready for the Loggers, and he's sure they will be ready for his squad, too.

"The last three games or four games, teams have figured out what we like to do and have extended and guarded the 3," he said. "We could have folded the games they didn't fall, but we didn't panic and found other ways to score. That has been the biggest thing I've been pleased with. We actually haven't hit a lot of 3s lately and the kids have adjusted and responded well."

In other girls quarterfinal games, Valley Catholic plays Santiam Christian, Nyssa takes on Rainier and Willamina faces Vale. The Crusader/Logger winner will play the winner of the Rainier/Willamina contest in the semifinals at 6:30 p.m. on Friday at Marshfield HIgh.

Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email

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