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Crater boys advance to state semifinals

CORVALLIS — Crater advanced to the state semifinals for first time in program history Tuesday night, riding a hot third quarter to a 65-54 victory over South Albany in the Class 5A quarterfinals at Gill Coliseum.

The No. 2 seed Comets (25-1), who reeled off their 15th consecutive victory, will face a familiar foe in the semis: third-seeded Thurston, a 70-58 winner over Mountain View in the quarters.

The two teams will return to the same site to square off tonight. Tip-off is scheduled for 8:15 p.m. The winner advances to the state championship game Friday.

As the champion of the Midwestern League, Crater notched a pair of close MWL wins against the Colts (20-6) during the regular season.

“They say it’s really hard to beat the same team three times in the same season,” Crater coach Chris Schmerbach said. “Well, good. If you want to reach the pinnacle of basketball, you’ve got to do hard things.”

Thurston is “playing the best that they’ve played all year coming down the stretch and I know they’re real hungry and they’ll be well-prepared,” he added. “It’ll be a really cool Midwestern League semifinal.”

In their win over seventh-seeded South Albany, the Comets built a 10-point lead in the third quarter and the Rebels (20-6) never got closer than six in the fourth.

Crater’s leading scorer and rebounder, Kiefer Edwards, contributed an efficient effort with 17 points on 6 of 8 shooting from the field to go along with 10 boards.

Sophomore point guard Jayden Vranes, who flirted with a triple-double before finishing with 13 points, nine assists and eight rebounds, and senior wing Cade Weaver, who scored 11 of his 15 points in the second half, sparked a 22-12 third quarter for the Comets.

After a below-par defensive effort in the first half, Crater turned up its defensive intensity in the third quarter, which led to transition opportunities for Weaver and Vranes.

Weaver “did what he did for us all year, which is provide a spark and energy,” Schmerbach said. “He has the ability to take over the game in spurts.”

“Jayden, when he has the ball in his hands, he’s able to control the game,” Schmerbach added.

Crater took its largest lead of the first half, 24-14, midway through the second quarter on a 3-pointer by Nate Horton, but South Albany responded by rallying with a 14-0 run to go up 28-24.

The Comets, however, rallied back with a 6-2 run prior to halftime on a basket by Nate Bittle, a layup by Edwards and a pair of free throws by Vranes, who also assisted on the hoops by Bittle and Edwards, to knot the score at 30-30 heading into the break.

Bittle scored eight of his nine points in the first half to help spark the Comets offensively.

Defensively, Crater’s primary challenge was to slow guards Jaden Guilford and Jake Costello, who combined to score 36 points.

But while Guilford had an efficient offensive game, Costello struggled from the field, going just 6 of 22.

“Our length really affects people,” Schmerbach said. “It makes it really tough to get shots up. It just does. (My players) make me look really good.”

SOUTH ALBANY (54): Jaden Guilford 6-14 8-9 21; Jake Costello 6-22 0-2 15; Seth Cullison 3-9 2-7 9; Kyle Miller 2-7 0-0 6; Eli Nafziger 0-3 3-4 3; Ivan Rodriguez 0-1 0-0 0; Ryan Patrick 0-3 0-0 0; Sam Myers 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 17-59 13-22 54.

CRATER (65): Kiefer Edwards 6-8 4-7 17; Cade Weaver 6-11 2-2 15; Jayden Vranes 4-9 5-6 13; Nathan Bittle 2-5 4-6 9; Mason Vranes 2-4 0-0 6; Nate Horton 1-3 2-2 5; Christophe Stollings 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 21-42 17-23 65.

South Albany;11;19;12;12;—;54


3-point goals — South Albany 7-29 (Jake Costello 3-12; Kyle Miller 2-3; Seth Cullison 1-3; Jaden Guilford 1-5; Ivan Rodriguez 0-1; Ryan Patrick 0-3; Eli Nafziger 0-2), Crater 6-19 (Mason Vranes 2-4; Nate Horton 1-2; Nathan Bittle 1-4; Kiefer Edwards 1-1; Cade Weaver 1-3; Christophe Stollings 0-1; Jayden Vranes 0-4). Fouled out — None. Rebounds — South

Albany 38 (Jake Costello 13), Crater 33 (Kiefer Edwards 10). Assists — South Albany 9 (Jaden Guilford 4), Crater 13 (Jayden Vranes 9). Total fouls — South Albany 20, Crater 16. Technical fouls — None.


Crater freshman Nathan Bittle blocks a shot by South Albany's Jake Costello during the Class 5A state quarterfinals at Gill Coliseum. [MARK YLEN/ALBANY DEMOCRAT-HERALD]
Crater senior Kiefer Edwards shoots over South Albany's Ryan Patrick on Wednesday in Corvallis. [MARK YLEN/ALBANY DEMOCRAT-HERALD]