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Challengers capture third at state

SALEM — Maybe it was the shoes. Maybe it was the change of scenery.

Either way, Cascade Christian shook off a "devastating" overtime loss against Horizon Christian in the semifinals on Friday with its best overall performance of the tournament on Saturday.

The Challengers (28-3) earned a Class 3A third-place trophy with a 68-61 victory over Portland Adventist at South Salem High School.

"It's kind of bittersweet," 6-foot-7 senior forward Justin Duchien said. "But at the same time, third place isn't that bad. We don't have a lot of trophies in our trophy case."

The change of venue from Willamette University to nearby South Salem was made after the Oregon Supreme Court ruled that the OSAA must accommodate Portland Adventists' religious beliefs of observing Saturday Sabbath, which moved the start time to 6:30 p.m. and necessitated a different gym with evening games already scheduled at Willamette.

And after struggling to shoot the ball in the first two games of the tournament, Cascade Christian put on an impressive shooting display Saturday, scoring on its first four possessions and leading nearly from start to finish.

The Challengers led by as much as 20 in the fourth quarter until a flurry of late 3-pointers from the Cougars (21-10) brought the final deficit to single digits.

"(The venue) definitely did make a difference," said Duchien, who finished with six points and a team-high 10 rebounds. "The rims were a little looser. The gym is a little older. It has more of a high school feel to it."

Cascade Christian also came out sporting one white shoe and one black shoe. The team had been alternating between the two shoes throughout the tournament until deciding to mix them for the final game of the season.

"It was the shoes," said senior forward Jeremy Cheney of the Challengers' improved play.

The shoe switch was just fine with Challengers' coach Brian Morse.

"I wanted to do anything to loosen those guys up," Morse said. "Last night's loss was just devastating for the guys. We're at the point in our program where we expect to win a state championship every year. I said, 'The best way to get that bad taste out of your mouth and that gut-wrenching blow, is to go out with a win.' They were focused to get that memory erased."

That was obvious from the outset.

The Challengers led 34-26 at the half behind 14 points from Cheney and 13 from junior guard Jarrod Hess.

Cascade Christian led 53-36 heading into the fourth after a 9-0 run and eventually built the lead to 64-44 on Duchien's inside basket midway through the final quarter.

But Portland Adventist scored on six straight possessions in the final minutes, including consecutive 3-pointers from senior guards Joe Kim and Miller Stapf, which cut the lead to 66-61 with 11.4 seconds to play before two Ben Joffer free throws clinched the win for Cascade Christian.

"Our kids never give up, and they made it a little exciting, but we dug ourselves a little too deep of a hole at that point," said Portland Adventist coach Lance Judd. "We struggled to find any way to stop them."

The Challengers picked their spots for easy shots all night against the Cougars' zone.

Cheney finished with 18 points and seven rebounds for the Challengers. Joffer had 16 points, Hess scored 15 and had six assists and junior wing Scott Morse managed six points, eight assists, seven rebounds and three blocks.

Senior center Andrew Bailey led Portland Adventist with 16 points, while Stapf had 14 and Kim had 12.

"We had a team meeting and said, 'All tournament we've been focusing on stopping the other team,'" Cheney said. "'This game, let's just relax and play our game and our defense is good enough we could stop them anyway.' We just went out and played our offense."

Cheney, a Sunset first-team all-league performer, was one of three seniors playing in his final game for the Challengers. Duchien and forward Jacob Ayala also completed their careers on Saturday. The trio helped the Challengers to a school-record 28 wins this season.

"It's a little bit disappointing because of missing the state championship," Duchien said. "But, as a senior, this is the type of situation you want to be in. You want to finish with a victory."

CASCADE CHRISTIAN (68) — Cheney 18, Joffer 16, Hess 15, Morse 6, Duchien 6, Kinney 5, Ayala 2, Siliga 0, Litton 0, Hoffman 0, Thomas 0, Cochran 0.

PORTLAND ADVENTIST (61) — Bailey 16, Stapf 14, Kim 12, Lewis 9, Linfoot 4, Torkelson 4, Long 2, Orth 0, Strode 0, Brandes 0, Gaede 0.

Cascade Chrsitian 17 17 19 15 — 68

Portland Adventist 13 13 10 25 — 61

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