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West settles wild one

The way St. Mary’s and Rogue River were battling for every inch of space on the court Friday night, it wasn’t hard to predict that the matchup of Southern Cascade League boys basketball co-leaders was going to go down to the final shot.

Who was going to get that shot, however, provided a dramatic exclamation mark for a jam-packed crowd at St. Mary’s HIgh.

Rogue River rallied from a fourth-quarter deficit to take a one-point lead with 25 seconds to play, but the Crusaders wouldn’t be denied on this night as junior Tyler West dropped in a leaning shot with three seconds to go for a wild, 48-47 victory by St. Mary’s.

“I keep running it back through my head and I can’t even believe it happened,” West said in the aftermath of being swarmed by classmates after his game-winner. “It’s awesome.”

West’s final shot, which danced around the rim before falling in, supplied St. Mary’s with a one-game lead on the Rogue River heading into the final week of the SCL season.

The Crusaders (15-6, 5-1 SCL) can secure at least a tie for the regular season title with a win Tuesday at Cascade Christian (12-8, 3-2). Rogue River (13-8, 4-2) was seeking to get a leg up on its first league title since 1968 with a win Friday.

“We just keep talking about how at this point of the season every game is a must-win essentially,” said St. Mary’s head coach Eric Guyer, “and our kids, doggone it, just showed so much heart tonight. I’m really proud of them. They could’ve folded a couple times and they stayed with it.”

St. Mary’s showed tremendous poise on its final possession to thwart a focused and solid defensive effort by the Chieftains. West wasn’t the first option to take a go-ahead shot for the Crusaders, but he was ready after his team took a timeout with 18.7 seconds remaining.

“When we walked out there it was just running through my head that if I get the ball I’m going to take it and make it,” said the 6-foot guard. “I was expecting Michael (Crennen) to shoot it once he got the ball but he got triple-teamed so he kicked it out to me.”

West threw a pump fake at a closing defender and angled his way to the basket, pulling up in the paint for a floater that curled around the cylinder before sliding into the net. The final three seconds ticked off without Rogue River getting the ball inbounds.

“It seemed like it was on there for a long time and I thought for sure it was going to roll out,” admitted West, “but then it went in and it was the most exciting time of my life.”

West sheepishly said it wasn’t his first game-winning shot of the year, although the only two of his life aren’t really comparable.

“In the preseason we did a scrimmage with the white and blue teams for St. Mary’s against each other and I had a game-winner for that,” he said, “but this is way better.”

West scored four of his team’s six points in the fourth quarter. The Crusaders built a 42-35 cushion thanks to some energetic play by Denten Edwards off the bench toward the end of the third quarter, but all of that was wiped away by Rogue River in the final frame.

Crennen scored the opening basket of the fourth, but Rio Lopez twice scored off assists by Connor Strickland and a 3-pointer by Jordan Ehrhardt cut Rogue River’s deficit to 44-42. Two foul shots by West stemmed the tide momentarily but Ehrhardt again scored and, after a pair of front-end misses on one-and-one free throws by Kele Eaton and Crennen, Lopez tallied again to tie it at 46-all.

Chris Campbell’s steal in the final 30 seconds set him up at the free-throw line to give Rogue River a chance and the junior point guard made 1 of 2 for a 47-46 advantage.

“That was just one hard-fought game between two teams that were just fighting to the death,” said Rogue River head coach Ron Haynes. “What can you say? We fought back as much as we did, I was really proud of our kids.”

“It was a great atmosphere, I loved it,” added the coach. “Us losing is just the way it happens.”

Strickland had 13 points, five rebounds and three assists and Campbell added 12 points, seven rebounds, four assists and six steals for the Chieftains, who also got 12 points and six boards by Lopez.

Crennen led St. Mary’s with 12 points and seven rebounds, while West had nine points and five boards and Connor Vinyard totaled eight points and six rebounds. Edwards chipped in six rebounds while Elijah Conway dished out four assists for the Crusaders.

“Rogue River plays so darn hard and we knew they were going to play for 32 minutes,” said Guyer. “It’s just rugged basketball and I really respect the way they play but it’s hard-nosed basketball. We had to fight for everything we had.”

St. Mary’s definitely countered the grit with its own hard-nosed ways, with West facing a stiff challenge even before the basketball found its way to him in the final seconds.

“Tyler really drew the tough assignment defensively tonight of guarding Chris Campbell, who’s one of the premier guards in the state,” said Guyer. “I thought he did a great job defensively but when we needed a shot, he showed the poise to put it on the ground and get a good shot to fall. It tried to come out but thankfully it fell in.”

ROGUE RIVER (47) — Strickland 13, Campbell 12, Lopez 12, Ehrhardt 5, Pratt 3, Hansen 2, Caulley 0, Woodall 0. Totals: 19-45 5-14 47.

ST. MARY’S (48) — Crennen 12, West 9, Vinyard 8, Eaton 7, Edwards 4, Conway 3, Lewis 3, Rothfus 2, Johnson 0. Totals: 18-49 7-10 48.

Rogue River;11;15;9;12;—;47

St. Mary’s;9;16;17;6;—;48

3-point goals — Rogue River 4-15 (Strickland 3, Ehrhardt 1), St. Mary’s 5-17 (Eaton 1, West 1, Conway 1, Lewis 1, Vinyard 1).

JV result — St. Mary’s won.

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@mailtribune.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry

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Michael Crennen, a junior post, tips the ball in on a rebound in the first half. He led the Crusaders with 12 points. PHOTO BY ANDY ATKINSON
Rogue River's Chris Campbell drives to the basket in the third quarter Friday at St. Mary's. PHOTO BY ANDY ATKINSON