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BOYS BASKETBALL: St. Mary's secures top seed to state

MYRTLE CREEK — In a battle of Far West League leaders, 10th-ranked St. Mary’s made all the right moves down the stretch to topple No. 6 Sutherlin, 57-49, and secure the league’s No. 1 seed into the upcoming Class 3A state playoffs Wednesday night.

With the game tied 47-all, the Crusaders stiffened their defensive approach in the final 21/2 minutes and went 10-for-14 from the free-throw line to push past the Bulldogs in a league playoff between the FWL regular season co-champions at South Umpqua High Wednesday night.

“They just keep their poise,” said St. Mary’s boys basketball coach Richard Vasey of his Crusaders. “It’s been nice because they don’t panic and they kind of just buckle down on defense. And then it was huge for us to make those free throws tonight.”

Senior Tre Foster scored 14 points and had a couple key blocks down the stretch for St. Mary’s, while Josh Banton (11), James Forrester (10) and Will Kranenburg (10) all finished with double-digit scoring.

Banton was 6-for-6 from the foul line in the fourth quarter, Kranenburg 4-for-4 and Forrester 2-for-2. Banton’s steal and ensuing free throws gave the Crusaders an important 52-47 cushion with about 11/2 minutes to go.

“This season we’ve always had guys step up and they really did again tonight,” said Vasey.

With the win, St. Mary’s (14-9, 8-2 FWL) is assured a home game when the 3A playoffs begin Feb. 29. Since the Crusaders finished the regular season outside the top eight spots in the state’s power rankings at No. 11, Wednesday’s victory means they will bump at least one team down to a road opener since league champions are afforded home openers.

“Honestly, if we kind of messed everything up for the bracketing, I’m OK with that,” Vasey said with a chuckle on his team’s turn in fortunes.

Cascade Christian (19-5, 7-3) is an expected at-large team for the state playoffs and carries a No. 6 power ranking, while Sutherlin (18-6, 8-2) is ranked ninth. Both likely now will start the playoffs on the road.

Mason Gill scored 12 points and Josh Davis added 11 to pace the Bulldogs.

SUTHERLIN (49): Horn 4, Carr 6, Stinnett 6, Gill 12, Davis 11, Bodine 10, Merrifield 0. Totals: 18 12-17 49.

ST. MARY’S (57): Banton 11, Kaeo-Wailehua 5, Forrester 10, Kranenburg 10, Bennion 3, Hadley 2, Foster 14, Aldrich 2, Snyder 0. Totals: 16 20-29 57.

Sutherlin10171111— 49

St. Mary’s14131218— 57

3-point goals — Sutherlin 1 (Stinnett 1), St. Mary’s 5 (Banton 1, Kaeo-Wailehua 1, Forrester 2, Bennion 1). Fouled out — Carr. Technical foul — Sutherlin coach Stinnett.