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Hess answers the call

Cascade Christian junior point guard Jarrod Hess can easily recall the final game of his sixth-grade basketball season.

In his first year of organized basketball, Hess and his Harvest Baptist Christian team were undefeated heading into the final game of the season against Sacred Heart Catholic.

Hess' team lost by two as his half-court heave at the buzzer missed its mark.

That game stands out for one very good reason: It was the last basketball game Hess lost.

From seventh grade until now as the 5-foot-11 point guard for the top-ranked Cascade Christian Challengers, Hess' record is perfect.

"He's Superman," says 6-6 junior and leading scorer Scott Morse. "He's good at every thing he does."

Hess has been a force for the Challengers (7-0) and a welcome sight after he missed his sophomore season while rehabbing from an ACL tear suffered during Cascade Christian's semifinal football game against Portland Christian last year.

Hess, who still currently wears a protective brace, had reconstructive surgery in January of 2007 and began a rigorous rehab process to rebuild the nearly two inches of muscle he lost in his quadriceps and calves.

He ended his football career to focus solely on basketball, and he's been an invaluable asset for the Challengers in his first varsity season.

"He was chomping at the bit to get back out on the court," says Cascade Christian coach Brian Morse. "He's exceeded all my expectations with what he's doing. I had no idea he could do what he's doing."

Hess has done just about every thing Cascade Christian has needed him to do so far.

When the team needs him to distribute the ball, he's done so. Hess fed fellow guard Ben Joffer for the go-ahead 3-pointer in a 55-50 overtime victory against South Umpqua in the Chieftain Tournament.

When 6-5 senior Jeremy Cheney went down with an ankle injury in the same game, Hess was called on by coach Morse to become more of a scoring threat.

He responded with 12 of his 17 points in the second half. He scored 16 and 17 points, respectively, in his last two games with Cheney recovering.

Hess is third on the team in scoring, behind Morse and Cheney, at 12.1 points per game. He has led the team in rebounding in three of seven games — including 13 rebounds against No. 8 Burns — and is an effective passer and solid defender, currently leading the team in charges with seven.

So, is there anything Hess can't do?

"I can't dunk," says Hess with a smile. "I just try to do my best out there. I'm there to get the team in the offense, run the plays and score when we need scoring. Just do what the coach wants me to do."

Coach Morse and the rest of Cascade Christian weren't totally sure what to expect coming into the season. The Challengers were making the switch to Class 3A after winning the Class 2A title. They had size but also lost productive guard Andrew Shipley and steady point guard Daniel Shipley to graduation.

And there was concern how Hess would respond after not playing for an entire season.

Turns out, Hess has taken care of those questions.

"He picked up right where he left off," Morse says. "He is exactly what we needed. He's got great poise on the court, very good self control. He's never rattled."

Since scoring just three points in the season opener, Hess has come on strong. He has reached double digits in every game since.

"At the beginning I was kind of nervous in my first varsity game," Hess says. "I've built my confidence back up."

In his latest game, the Sunset League opener against Glide on Tuesday, Hess flashed his versatility with 17 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and four steals.

"I've never had a point guard who can do all that," coach Morse says. "He is right now the most versatile point guard I've ever had. He does so much for this team.

"He takes the pressure off of Scott (Morse) and Jeremy (Cheney). Now you have a three-headed monster and who are you going to stop?"

Adds Scott Morse: "In summer league, teams would double down on me and Jeremy. Now it's nice to know if I get the ball down low and two guys collapse, I can throw it over the top to Jarrod."

Given his talent and determination, teammates have applied the moniker 'Superman' to Hess ever since his freshman season.

Some teammates say it stems from the 'Superman Drill' in which players battle each other in a 3-on-3 situation and a team must score three times to win.

When Cascade Christian performed the drill, many took notice of the scrawny red-head flying around.

"He was just going crazy out there as a little freshman," Cheney says of Hess.

Not much has changed this season, at least in Hess' demeanor.

Scott Morse recalled in the Challengers' fourth game of the season, with a sizable lead against Glendale, Hess made a leaping attempt at a ball headed out of bounds.

Cascade Christian won the game 75-15.

"We're up by like 30 and he just dove hardcore into the bleachers," Scott Morse says. "I was like, 'Easy, Jarrod.'"

Today, Cascade Christian enters the A.G. Edwards Christmas Classic, a 32-team tournament with 16 boys teams and 16 girls teams broken up into a "Varsity" bracket, mostly Class 2A and 1A teams, and an "Unlimited" bracket, which includes mostly 3A and 4A teams. Games are played at St. Mary's High School and The Pavilion in Medford, as well as Scenic Middle School in Central Point.

The Challengers take on Bonanza today in the first round of the eight-team "Unlimited" bracket, which also includes Helena Christian of Montana — the winners of its state division title.

But for Hess and teammates, the tournament is yet another step to its larger goal of bringing home a Class 3A title.

"We've definitely got the height and we've got the skill," Hess said. "We just can't get cocky."

Reach sports reporter Luke Andrews at 776-4469 or e-mail landrews@mailtribune.com

Cascade Christian's Jarrod Hess shoots during practice on Wednesday. - Jamie Lusch