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Stopped short

Unable to find its rhythm, the usual sure-shooting St. Mary’s boys basketball team struggled to score and keep pace with Nyssa in the semifinals of the Southern Oregon Subaru Christmas Classic on Tuesday.

Aiming for a shot at the annual event’s championship game and to keep its undefeated season alive, St. Mary’s suffered its first loss, 53-38, at Cascade Christian High School.

The Crusaders (7-1) will play for third place against Harrisburg at 4:30 p.m. today. Nyssa moves on to the championship, where it will square off against Santiam Christian at 1:30 p.m. Santiam Christian defeated Harrisburg in the other semifinal, 50-49.

“We just played a team that was good and we didn’t execute so well,” said St. Mary’s coach Greg Conway. “We shot terribly and were just off with our shot tonight, and we didn’t really get too many good looks at the basket.”

The Crusaders were able to put a bad first quarter behind them when they limited Nyssa to just six points in the following frame to draw within one point by halftime.

However, things began to unravel again for the Crusaders when the Bulldogs opened the second half by scoring eight points before taking control from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter. Nyssa made 12 of 13 from the foul line.

With about four minutes to play, St. Mary’s found itself down by eight points but wasn’t able to take advantage of its opportunities.

“We missed some open looks (in the fourth quarter) that could have brought us back,” said Conway. “We just couldn’t get over the mountain. Then they hit their free throws down the stretch and we just couldn’t capitalize.”

Michael Crennen led the way for the Crusaders with 13 points and Connor Vinyard added 12 points and eight rebounds. Vinyard also made the Crusaders’ lone 3-pointer in the contest.

Nyssa picked up 13 points apiece from Justin Simpson and Boston Thompson and got 12 from Freddy Pascacio.

“We’ve just gotta learn from it and get better,” said Conway. “That’s part of the gig. We still haven’t played our best games yet and that’s very encouraging.”

NYSSA (53): Pascacio 12, Simpson 13, Thompson 13, Chavez 4, Fuentes 4, Gonzalez 7, Ortiz 0, Coble 0. Totals: 19 9-13 53.

ST. MARY’S (38): West 0, Rothfus 4, Johnson 0, Conway 1, Eaton 4, Yaeger 4, Vinyard 12, Crennen 13, Sue 0. Totals: 14 9-19 38.

Nyssa;17;6;15;15;—;53

St. Mary’s;11;11;8;8;—;38

3-point goals — Nyssa 6 (Pascacio 2, Simpson 3, Thompson 1), St. Mary’s 1 (Vinyard).

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St Mary's Connor Vinyard has the ball wrestled away from him by Nyssa's Tanner Coble as the Crusader senior drives to the basket in the second quarter during the Southern Oregon Subaru Christmas Classic at Cascade Christian Tuesday. PHOTO BY ANDY ATKINSON
St. Mary's Hunter Rothfus goes to the floor and protects the ball from Nyssa's Freddy Pascacio in the second quarter Tuesday at Cascade Christian. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS