Winning the Southern Cascade League title seemed like a pretty bold goal this spring considering the recent history of the Cascade Christian...
The St. Mary's girls basketball team may not have been at home on Friday but the Crusaders felt at home — right behind the 3-point arc, a very comfortable place for the deep-thinking bunch.
St. Mary's knocked down eight triples and terrorized Cascade Christian defensively en route to a 55-38 win in Southern Cascade Hybrid action at Cascade Christian High.
The victory was the Crusaders' eighth straight and allowed them to clinch the conference championship with a two-game advantage on the second-place Challengers.
Sophomore guard Rose Alvarez led the charge with 13 points, scoring all of her points in the first half and drilling three treys while the Challengers scrambled to keep track of Rose's older sister, Emily Alvarez, and Lillian Martin.
St. Mary's (20-2, 7-0 SCH) buried five of its 12 3-point attempts in the first 16 minutes and finished 8-for-22 from beyond the arc. Martin had nine points on three bombs and added three steals and Emily Alvarez scored 11 points.
Swinging for the fences is nothing new for the Crusaders. St. Mary's burnt Lakeview for 13 triples and drained its first seven 3-point attempts against Bonanza earlier this year.
"We are not afraid to shoot the ball," St. Mary's head coach Richard Vasey said. "We are not shy about it at all."
It was more of the same on Friday. The Crusaders came out launching with Rose Alvarez sinking two 3s in the game's opening three minutes to give her team an 8-0 advantage.
Cascade Christian's Alaina Thomson responded by pouring in eight points within a span of a minute, powering to the bucket twice and scoring while drawing foul calls and canning a trey to put the Challengers on top 13-10. She finished with 13 points and eight rebounds.
Cascade Christian exited the first quarter with a 15-13 lead, but then things started to get ugly. The Challengers had trouble against the Crusaders' full-court blitz and trailed 35-22 at halftime. In the third quarter, Cascade Christian managed to connect on just two of its 15 shot attempts and St. Mary's took advantage.
"A two-minute bad patch can turn into a 15-point run," Cascade Christian head coach Marvin Denman said. "(St. Mary's) is that good."
And when the moment seemed right — and it did often — the Crusaders stepped back and fired away.
"(Cascade Christian) could see that we were all shooters, so we took advantage of their defense," Emily Alvarez said.
Vasey was pleased with how his role players performed, including efforts by Sarah Ramsay (eight points and seven rebounds) and Viv Juncal (six points).
"Before the game we knew they would probably come out and focus on Emily and Lillian because they have been playing so well lately," Vasey said. "But we have Rose, obviously, and then other kids stepped up."
With just two regular-season contests remaining on his squad's schedule — and only one with SCH implications — Vasey said it was key for his group to play tough from start to finish on Friday.
"In a game like this maybe we shouldn't have taken so many 3s down the stretch, but we've got to get ready for Illinois Valley (on Tuesday) and the tournament championship and hopefully a state playoff game," Vasey said. "We are really trying to focus on that."
Ali Spani recorded eight points and Stephanie Croy added six points, eight rebounds and four assists for the Challengers, whose squad stands at 12-9 overall and 4-2 in conference play despite their inexperience, Denman said.
"We are excited about the growth they have had this year," Denman said. "And it's not over yet. We still have two more games to play out."
ST. MARY'S (55) — R. Alvarez 13, E. Alvarez 11, Martin 9, Ramsay 8, Juncal 6, Vasey 4, DeBoer 2, Barnum 2, Weiland 0, Rothfus 0. Totals: 23 1-3 55.
CASCADE CHRISTIAN (38) — Thomson 13, Spani 8, Croy 6, Miller 5, Kinney 4, Reen 2, Auchard 0, Alvarez 0, Bales 0. Totals: 14 6-14 38.
St. Mary's 13 22 13 7 — 55
Cascade Christian 15 7 6 10 — 38
3-point goals — St. Mary's 8 (R. Alvarez 3, Martin 3, Ramsay 1, E. Alvarez 1), Cascade Christian 4 (Thomson 2, Spani 2).
JV result — St. Mary's won.
Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email email@example.com