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Top-ranked Crusaders' title hopes disappear

In what appeared to be a battle of girls basketball titans that came a bit early, top-ranked St. Mary's had its Class 3A state championship hopes dashed Thursday.

The previously unbeaten Crusaders led nearly the entire game, but foul trouble and ineffectiveness down the stretch cost them in a 45-42 quarterfinal loss to second-ranked Salem Academy at Marshfield High in Coos Bay.

The two teams were voted the best in a state coaches' poll, but the Oregon School Activities Association power rankings had the Salem school fourth and St. Mary's fifth, hence the early tournament meeting.

"It's one of those things where you may have the two best teams in the state playing in the first round and somebody's got to lose," said Crusaders coach Rick Jackson. "We had the lead the entire game, we just needed to make one basket coming down the stretch. And we had some turnovers that were costly. It was a great basketball game. They're a great team and we're a great team. We just made a few little mistakes and missed a few shots, and that was the difference."

With two Crusader senior starters, Kylee Adderson and Abby Steinsiek, having fouled out, Salem Academy (25-3) took only its second lead, 43-42, on a free throw by Danielle Vander Stoel with 44 seconds to play.

Looking to at least tie the game, St. Mary's (23-1) instead turned the ball over with 20 seconds left, forcing Domonique Valdez to foul Hanna Flores. Flores made one of two free throws for a 44-42 edge with 15 seconds showing.

The Crusaders took possession, hustled to their end of the court and got an open 3-point attempt by Emily Alvarez that rattled around the rim and popped out.

Vander Stoel rebounded, was fouled and made a free throw with six seconds left for a 45-42 lead. St. Mary's half-court heave at the buzzer missed the mark, leaving the Crusaders to play a consolation game today.

St. Mary's takes on Clatskanie (18-10), a 55-37 loser to Umatilla, at 9 a.m.

"Emily had a great look," said Jackson. "I really thought we won the game. She does a nice move to get herself open and that thing goes in and out. It was down, then rimmed out. If she makes that, we're on our way. And it's not her fault. She did a great job, and there's almost no one else I'd rather have taking that 3 at that point."

The Crusaders managed to keep Salem Academy some 20 points below its season scoring average, but they couldn't contain Vander Stoel. The 6-foot-2 senior post had 25 points, 16 rebounds and three blocks.

In the final 4:29, when Salem Academy rallied from a 40-33 deficit, Vander Stoel made a field goal and five free throws. She was only 7 of 16 at the line, but most of her makes came in the critical stretch.

"She's not only big but she's long and really jammed up the middle," said Jackson.

The loss was only the second for the Crusaders in 41 games, dating to December 2009. The other setback was in the Class 2A state championship game last year to Portland Christian.

That success might have been a double-edged sword. The Crusaders' two weaknesses entering the postseason were their lack of experience in close games and limited depth, which they were able to hide in lopsided wins.

No opponent had come within 10 points of the Crusaders all season. They had two 11-point victories in December, but most triumphs were by at least 20 points.

The losses of Steinsiek with 41/2 minutes left and Adderson with 2:48 to go compounded matters.

"There's nothing you can do about that," said Jackson. "You can't intentionally dig yourself into a close game so you can practice it ... They pressured us, and part of it might be we hadn't been in that situation before this year. The kids played very well overall, we just couldn't get the few little things we needed to seal the deal."

The Crusaders had been a good shooting team all season but were 0-for-9 on 3-pointers against the Salem Academy zone defense.

"If we make one 3 in the second, third or fourth quarter, we win," said Jackson, whose team was 18 of 54 from the field for 33 percent.

St. Mary's, which got 14 of Mackenzie Krieser's 20 points in the first half, led 20-11 after one quarter and 26-21 at halftime. With Steinsiek and Adderson out, she was controlled by double-teams in the waning minutes.

Salem Academy's first lead was 29-28 midway through the third quarter, but St. Mary's built the lead back to seven by the end of the quarter. Adderson got a feed from Valdez and made a basket with 1:23 left. Twenty-five seconds later, Krieser made a four-point play, sinking a basket and making two free throws after intentionally being fouled.

St. Mary's lead grew to 38-29 on two free throws by Emily Alvarez at 7:33 of the fourth, but Salem Academy chipped away from there.

Adderson added 14 points and Emily Alvarez tallied eight. Only three Crusaders scored. Jamee Batten grabbed eight rebounds, but St. Mary's was out-boarded, 58-32.

"They're pretty devastated," Jackson said of his players. "They're not used to losing. And to have control the entire game, not totally control but be up, it's tough."

SALEM ACADEMY (45) — Peters 5, Flores 5, McAllister 0, Gould 5, Artz 3, Tribbett 2, Vander Stoel 25. Totals: 15-49 14-28 45.

ST. MARY'S (42) — E. Alvarez 8, Valdez 0, Steinsiek 0, Krieser 20, Adderson 14, Batten 0, J. Alvarez 0. Totals: 18-45 6-12 42.

St. Mary's 20 6 10 6 — 42

Salem Academy 11 10 8 16 — 45

3-point goals — Salem Academy 1 (Artz). Fouled out — Steinsiek, Adderson.

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479, or e-mail ttrower@mailtribune.com