Winning the Southern Cascade League title seemed like a pretty bold goal this spring considering the recent history of the Cascade Christian...
With a continuation of their season on the line tonight, the St. Mary's boys basketball team will have to do without the services of head coach Braden Benton and one of its players when the Crusaders play host to Lakeview in the Southern Cascade Hybrid playoffs at St. Mary's High.
The one-game suspensions are the result of incidents that occurred following a Feb. 4 game in Lakeview, in which the host Honkers rallied from an eight-point deficit in the fourth quarter to upset the Crusaders, 56-53.
Following the contest, tensions were high and the end result included around $500 worth of damage done to the Lakeview locker room by one of the St. Mary's players. A mirror and a pair of garbage cans were damaged in the incident.
"Unfortunately, that's correct," said St. Mary's High Athletic Director James Joy on Tuesday. "We had our guys team go over and lose a hard-fought match after they had a big lead and it dwindled away in the second half and they ended up losing a heartbreaker. We had some of our guys lose their composure and we had one player do some damage to the locker room and so that was certainly not the sort of behavior that we condone. That's why the player is going to be sitting out the playoff game against Lakeview."
For his part, Joy said Benton's one-game suspension is "just an extension of the players losing composure."
"The severity of the suspensions really shows how adamant we are that this is not the behavior we condone by our players whether they're home or away," added Joy. "It's absolutely not a situation we want to see happen and it's an unfortunate incident that we've taken action on."
St. Mary's (14-6) and Lakeview (11-10) tied for second place in the final SCH boys standings at 5-3 apiece, with the Crusaders winning 66-59 in a Jan. 17 meeting in Medford. By virtue of a tiebreaker using point differential, St. Mary's High earned the right to host tonight's league playoff game at 7, which follows an SCH girls playoff contest between the same schools at 5:30 p.m.
Joy and Lakeview Athletic Director Jesse Hamilton each confirmed the player, whose name is being withheld, has already made restitution for the damages in addition to accepting his one-game suspension.
"We have a great relationship with St. Mary's and have for many years," said Hamilton, "and I think they've handled everything on their end very well. We look forward to coming over Wednesday and having a couple great games and letting these athletes come up and play hard and take care of things on the court in the proper fashion."
Hamilton said the situation is one that "we've moved past."
A continued dialogue between the schools, which began with contact the following morning after the incident, has both schools confident there should be no lasting concerns heading into tonight's meeting. Joy, Hamilton and the respective principals from St. Mary's High (Frank Phillips) and Lakeview (Steve Prock) gathered for a face-to-face discussion last week and the schools remained in contact while an action plan was set in motion.
"Their principal and AD are coming over and we're going to have a good showing here with our staff," Joy said of tonight's plan. "I feel positive about the games tomorrow and positive that it's just going to be two good basketball games and whoever wins will represent our league well. I really don't get a sense that anyone's coming in with hard feelings. There's been a lot of work done behind the scenes with this so I feel pretty positive about the two schools moving forward."
St. Mary's sophomore Connor Vinyard scored a game-high 20 points in the second meeting with Lakeview and senior Kade Benton scored 26 in the first game to pace the Crusaders.
The winner of tonight's SCH boys playoff game will advance to play at No. 2-ranked Cascade Christian (21-3, 8-0), presumably Saturday, to determine the league's top two seeds for the Class 3A state playoffs. Tonight's losing team is eliminated from playoff contention.
The SCH girls contest tonight involves co-champions St. Mary's (17-3) and Lakeview (14-8), who tied for the league title with 7-1 marks.
Since there was a co-championship in girls basketball, the typical meeting between the Nos. 2-3 league teams was eschewed, according to Joy, to avoid the chance of a league champion being eliminated from state playoff contention. Cascade Christian finished third at 13-11 overall and 4-4 in league.
The Crusader girls stormed to a 67-39 win against Lakeview on Jan. 17 when seniors Emily Alvarez and Lillian Martin set career scoring marks with 26 and 21 points, respectively. In a 47-36 loss on Feb. 4, Alvarez scored 19 points but no teammate had more than four points against the Honkers, who made 10 of 13 foul shots to outscore St. Mary's 18-8 in the final quarter.
Like the boys game, the St. Mary's girls earned the right to host the playoff by virtue of a point-differential tiebreaker.
Admission is good for both games at $5 for adults, $4 for students and $3 for elementary students and seniors. Only SCH and OSAA passes will be accepted.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry