Winning the Southern Cascade League title seemed like a pretty bold goal this spring considering the recent history of the Cascade Christian...
After their Siskiyous team had held a lead for almost the entire edition of the Mail Tribune All-Star Basketball Classic, Crater's Connor Lane, Eagle Point's Cesar Chavez and South Medford's Ben Orndoff simply weren't going to miss an opportunity to go out on top in front of friends, family and a host of fans at Kids Unlimited on Friday.
The Rogues pulled into a tie on two free throws by Eagle Point senior Jorge Quintero and then gained their first lead since the second possession of the game on two more foul shots by Hidden Valley junior Mike Hults with four minutes to play.
After that, Lane, Chavez and Orndoff were part of a group inserted by Siskiyous head coach Brant Minor and the senior trio took charge under the spotlight of the seventh annual game that features southern Oregon standouts from the Class 6A to 1A levels.
Lane, Chavez and Orndoff scored 13 of the Siskiyous' final 15 points to ward off a frenzied comeback by the Rogues and win 70-66.
"We let them get back in the game and they were hitting shots," said the senior Chavez, "but I think my legs got warm in the second half and I was feeling the game more at the end. We just had to attack, and then Connor hit some clutch free throws. It's nice when your big guy can hit them like that."
The 6-foot-7 Lane converted a pair of free throws to give his team a 67-65 cushion with 39 seconds to play and, after a 3-pointer by North Valley senior Cameron Lyon, Lane rebounded a front-end miss on a one-and-one by Orndoff and followed with one foul shot of his own to make it 68-65.
The Rogues worked the ball down the sideline but a fadeaway by Prospect's Matt Rader missed the mark and Chavez scrambled to the floor to gain possession as his team called for a timeout with 8.9 seconds to go. After that, Chavez was fouled and made both free throws for the final margin.
Lane finished with a team-high 13 points to go with eight rebounds and two blocked shots to garner MVP honors.
"It was really fun playing with really good guards like Cesar and Julian (Gray) and all of them, they were just all great teammates," said Lane, who was 3-for-4 from the foul line to seal the win and 5-for-6 overall. "I just kept my mind to it and concentrated a lot on those free throws and thankfully I made them."
Chavez scored all 10 of his points in the second half and added four rebounds and four assists, while Ashland junior Collin Malcolm had 11 points and five rebounds and Orndoff finished with a game-high 12 rebounds to go with nine points for the Siskiyous.
"This game had a lot of talented players and good athletes on the same court and it was just really fun competing against one another," said Orndoff. "Obviously we came out here to win but we also wanted to have fun, so it was awesome we were able to do both."
Crater sophomore Jacob Hintemeyer paced the Rogues with 13 points and eight rebounds, while Lyon had 12 points and three boards, Quintero had eight points, six rebounds and three assists and Rader added eight points — two shy to make him completely happy.
"On my last shot I was thinking in midair if I should lay it up or pull up, but I froze up," said Rader, a senior for Class 1A Prospect, on the potential game-tying shot. "Then right after I shot it I saw someone in the corner wide open. I thought it was going in, though, but it just didn't."
Still, the loss wasn't something Rader took too hard. He was just happy to be part of the experience, even if he didn't fully comprehend the Classic makeup of blending players from all classifications.
"I thought it was going to be all 1A, to be honest, but I liked it a lot," said Rader. "It was pretty nerve-wracking at first. I wasn't expecting all these people to come out here, but I liked it, it was fun."
North Medford senior Julian Gray added eight points and seven rebounds for the Siskiyous, while Grants Pass senior Micah Johnson had eight points and five rebounds, including a putback during his team's late surge.
"It was definitely a fun experience to close my high school career as my last game," said Gray. "There were a lot of good players and a lot of people I've been playing against for a long time so it was just overall good to make this last memory with them in front of the whole community."
With his team letting the lead dwindle away and then vanish, Gray was another on the Siskiyous who wasn't about to walk off the court having lost out in his final go-round. The Black Tornado standout was on the losing end of an 81-68 setback in last year's all-star game.
"Last year I got smoked in this so this year when we let go of the lead and we got in the timeout I just said, 'We need to win because I want to win at least one of these things,'" Gray said with a laugh.
Also for the Siskiyous, Kade Benton of St. Mary's had five points and four boards, Chris Campbell of Rogue River had five rebounds and two points, Evan Givens of Butte Falls had four rebounds and two points and Zach Welch of Illinois Valley had two points, one assist and one steal.
For the Rogues, Phoenix's Jason Wyncoop had seven points and four rebounds, Hults had seven points, four rebounds and two steals and North Medford's Tristen Holmes had five points, nine rebounds, four assists and two steals. Cascade Christian's David Sellers, who joined Chavez as the top vote-getters for the Classic, finished with four points and six boards while Brian Luther of Grants Pass had two points, two assists and two steals.
ROGUES (66) — Jacob Hintemeyer 13, Cameron Lyon 12, Jorge Quintero 8, Matt Rader 8, Jason Wyncoop 7, Mike Hults 7, Tristen Holmes 5, David Sellers 4, Brian Luther 2. Totals: 23-86 12-16 66.
SISKIYOUS (70) — Connor Lane 13, Collin Malcolm 11, Cesar Chavez 10, Ben Orndoff 9, Julian Gray 8, Micah Johnson 8, Kade Benton 5, Chris Campbell 2, Evan Givens 2, Zach Welch 2. Totals: 30-72 8-12 70.
Rogues 11 14 15 26 — 66
Siskiyous 13 14 22 21 — 70
3-point goals — Rogues 8-29 (Hintemeyer 2, Lyon 2, Holmes 1, Quintero 1, Wyncoop 1, Rader 1), Siskiyous 2-22 (Orndoff 1, Benton 1).
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry