Big fourth quarter sends Challengers to semifinals
SALEM — If Cascade Christian wasn't battle tested after going 12-0 and winning by an average margin of nearly 29 points per game in the Sunset League, the Challengers certainly are now after the opening round of the Class 3A boys basketball state tournament.
Third-ranked Cascade Christian (27-2) trailed by six entering the fourth quarter but, behind junior point guard Jarrod Hess, mounted a furious comeback to down fifth-ranked Harrisburg, 41-32, on Thursday at Willamette University's Cone Field House.
"We were expecting a fight," said Cascade Christian's junior wing Scott Morse, the Sunset League MVP. "All these teams up north, they don't respect us. It's good to beat up our league, but no one up north thinks we're that good. So it's nice to come out here and prove it."
Harrisburg (22-5), the second-place team out of the PacWest Conference, controlled Cascade Christian's press and the game for most of three quarters, taking a 28-22 lead into the fourth.
But behind nine points from Hess and a trapping, full-court press defense that forced four turnovers, Cascade Christian outscored Harrisburg 19-4 in the final quarter to advance to the semifinals at 8:15 tonight, where it will meet second-ranked Horizon Christian. The Tualatin school defeated Burns, 57-40.
"They ratcheted up the pressure a little bit," Harrisburg coach Terry Crabb said of the Challengers. "They got a little bit more physical with it, and we just broke down a few times when we shouldn't have. But that's the nature of the game, too. When the pressure starts hitting, where are you going to be?"
Hess was right in the middle of it.
He forced a steal for a breakaway layin to start the quarter and followed with a 3-pointer after a second Harrisburg turnover.
Hess recorded another steal and, after a foul, fed Morse for a layin off the inbounds pass to give Cascade Christian a 29-28 lead with just more than one minute gone by in the fourth quarter.
"All of the sudden, the momentum shifted," Crabb said. "We stayed with it, but we just couldn't get over the hump again."
The lead was Cascade Christian's first since holding a 13-11 advantage with 3:20 to play in the second quarter.
"We were putting token pressure for most of the first half," Cascade Christian coach Brian Morse said. "We were doing more containment pressure. We weren't attacking. In the fourth quarter, when we were down by six, we said, 'Now we are going to go for it.' When we started trapping, they started playing back on their heels, and it was a totally different ballgame at that point."
Harrisburg recaptured the lead at 30-29, but Cascade Christian senior forward Jeremy Cheney answered with a 3-pointer, part of a 6-0 run that put the Challengers in front, 36-30, with 2:38 to play.
Harrisburg didn't score again until 1:18 remained in the game and Hess' layin off a failed press with 1:10 to play was the dagger.
"We started slow, but in the fourth quarter, we put the pressure on," Hess said. "Next game, we need to start at the beginning "¦ defense won that ballgame."
Hess scored 13 and had four steals in his first career tournament action. He missed last season's Class 2A championship run with an ACL injury he sustained in football.
"I know we are a really good fourth-quarter team," coach Morse said. "Our guys are competitors, and they step up when it is crunch time.
"I'm very proud of him (Hess). Last year was the hardest thing for him. I'm so excited that he did so well and he's having the success he's having."
The Challengers needed all of Hess' production on Thursday. Cascade Christian's 41 points were a season low after averaging nearly 65 points per game in the regular season.
Morse and Cheney, the Challengers' leading scorers at more than 18 points per game, had just two points combined at the half as Harrisburg led 16-13. Both teams shot less than 30 percent for the half.
"We're still not playing our best basketball, offensively," coach Morse said. "I'm hoping (today) we'll come out and explode and get our offense going because with the defense we're playing, we're going to be really hard to stop."
Morse finished with eight points, eight rebounds and three blocks, and Cheney also managed eight points.
The Challengers shot 16 of 36 (44.4 percent) from the field to 12 of 43 (27.9 percent) for Harrisburg.
The Eagles were led by junior guard Justin Smucker's 10 points. Senior post Brody McGowan scored four points and grabbed a game-high nine rebounds.
"It was a monumental effort for us just to play with them for a while, and we definitely had our chances," Crabb said. "But that fourth quarter, it got away from us a little bit. You've got to give Cascade Christian credit. They are a very good basketball team, and they did what they needed to do to win the game."
CASCADE CHRISTIAN (27-2)
Morse 4-9 0-1 8, Cheney 3-7 0-0 8, Hess 5-9 2-2 13, Jofer 2-4 3-7 7, Duchien 2-4 0-2 4, Ayala 0-1 1-2 1, Cochran 0-0 0-0 0, Kinney 0-2 0-0 0. Totals: 16-36 6-14 41.
Smucker 4-12 0-0 10, Wick 2-3 2-2 7, Richardson 1-1 1-2 4, Buhler 2-12 0-0 4, McGowan 2-10 0-1 4, James 1-2 1-1 3, Thiesfeld 0-1 0-0 0, Brock 0-0 0-0 0, Lunch 0-0 0-0 0, Oakes 0-2 0-0 0. Totals: 12-43 4-6 32.
Cascade Christian 8 5 9 19 — 41
Harrisburg 9 7 12 4 — 32
3-point goals — Cascade Christian 3-8 (Cheney 2-2, Hess 1-2, Joffer 0-2, Kinney 0-1, Morse 0-1), Harrisburg 4-13 (Smucker 2-6, Richardson 1-1, Wick 1-2, Thiesfeld 0-1, Oakes 0-1, Buhler 0-2. Fouled out — Smucker. Rebounds — Cascade Christian 29 (Morse 8), Harrisburg 29 (McGowan 9). Assists — Cascade Christian 12 (Hess 4, Duchien 4), Harrisburg 4 (Smucker 3).
Reach reporter Luke Andrews at 776-4469, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org