Crusaders charge into 3A state title game
His team’s run for a state championship didn’t start this season, St. Mary’s boys head basketball coach Greg Conway said.
“In our minds, this has been a seven-year journey from about the sixth grade when a lot of these kids started playing together,” said Conway, who has filled in for Eric Guyer this season. “To have this opportunity, it’s incredible.”
The senior-dominated Crusaders are one victory away from realizing their childhood dreams after defeating Portland Adventist Academy, 80-62, in the Class 3A state semifinals at Marshfield High in Coos Bay on Friday.
Sixth-seeded St. Mary’s, which features nine seniors on its roster, will face De La Salle North Catholic of Portland in the title game at 8:30 tonight at Marshfield High.
The Crusaders (22-6) last captured a state championship in 1993, when Randy Shipley guided them past Monroe, 72-49, in the 2A finals to finish the year a perfect 22-0.
St. Mary’s last appearance in a state title game was in 2007, when Rick Jackson’s squad fell to Cascade Christian, 55-34, at the 2A level.
Two seniors in particular — 6-foot-5 post Michael Crennen and 6-4 forward Connor Vinyard — came up huge on Friday against the 10th-seeded Cougars (20-10).
Crennen had 27 points and nine rebounds, going 8 of 15 from the floor and 10 of 12 at the free-throw line, and Vinyard recorded 26 points and 13 rebounds.
Vinyard, who did not commit a turnover, shot 10-for-15.
Those two were named their team’s players of the game.
Meanwhile, seniors Tyler West, Hunter Rothfus and Eli Conway set the tone defensively for the Crusaders, who trailed 17-16 after the first quarter before turning things up to secure a 39-28 halftime advantage.
West, in particular, kept close tabs on Portland Adventist standout Trent Torkelsen, who was limited to eight points. The Cougars were just 4 of 21 from beyond the 3-point arc.
“Our defense has been our hallmark,” coach Conway said. “In the second quarter, we locked them down.”
Kodiak Yaeger scored nine points and Kele Eaton added eight points, six rebounds and four assists for St. Mary’s, which has won 11 straight.
The Portland squad led by as many as seven points in the first quarter.
“Portland Adventist is a really fast team,” coach Conway said. “We weren’t getting back quickly enough. We called a timeout and made some adjustments and worked back into the game slowly but surely.”
West and Conway helped set the table for Crennen and Vinyard in the second quarter, coach Conway said, and the Southern Cascade League co-players of the year went to work.
“We pounded the ball inside and had quick reversals,” coach Conway said.
St. Mary’s outscored Portland Adventist, 24-20, in the third to create even more separation.
The Crusaders outrebounded the Cougars, 40-29.
“We really as a team just did a good job,” coach Conway said. “Everyone plays a role.”
PORTLAND ADVENTIST (62): Tonack 12, De. Irvine 12, Roberts 9, Torkelsen 8, Collinet 6, Dy. Irvine 4, Kramer 4, Couch 4, Cruz 3, Graham 0, Harrison 0, Kight 0. Totals: 23-53 12-24 62.
ST. MARY'S (80): Crennen 27, Vinyard 26, Yaeger 9, Eaton 8, West 4, VanValkenburg 3, Rothfus 2, Bramscher 1, Kuitert 0, Sue 0, Conway 0, Wyant 0. Totals: 27-51 22-34 80.
3-point goals — Portland Adventist 4-21 (Roberts 3-9, Cruz 1-3), St. Mary's 4-10 (Vinyard 2-4, Yaeger 1-1, Crennen 1-2). Fouled out — Kramer, Tonack. Technical fouls — Tonack.
Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email email@example.com. Find him online at twitter.com/danjonesmt