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Top-ranked Churchill upends No. 2 Crater

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CENTRAL POINT — As difficult as the outcome was to swallow, Crater’s boys basketball season wasn’t derailed with a 61-48 loss to top-ranked Churchill in one of the biggest games on the state landscape.

The Comets, who are ranked No. 2 in the Class 5A coaches poll, fell for the second time in three games this season to the Lancers of Eugene. Churchill won both MWL games, improving to 20-3 overall and 14-0 in league with Tuesday’s victory.

The win by Crater (17-6, 13-2) over Churchill came in the Les Schwab Invitational in December.

Churchill has two league games left, Crater has one.

“As a competitor, you want to beat them and win every game you can,” said Comets coach Chris Schmerbach. “There’s no doubt about it, we’d like to have a share of the conference championship. But in the big picture, I’ve been talking with the guys all week: One way or another we’re going to see where we stack up against one of the best teams in the state, and we’ll know what we need to beat them.”

The Comets will watch film and see what needs to be done, he said, adding that the players’ spirits weren’t too compromised.

“We still have a lot of goals for this team that are out in front of us and that we can accomplish,” said Schmerbach. “We’re going to try to get better and play our best basketball here down the stretch, and I firmly believe we can do that. Nobody’s head is too down. We understand what we need to do. We just need to play a little better, and we’re capable of that.”

A combination of Churchill’s help defense on 6-foot-11 Crater star Nate Bittle and the Comets’ inability to make shots it normally sinks gave the Lancers the upper hand.

Crater scored only 15 first-half points, and its 48 for the game were a season low.

The Comets trailed 41-24 entering the fourth.

“Churchill did a really nice job,” said Schmerbach. “They were connected on both ends of the floor and really balanced. They had a great game plan. There’s a reason they’re the No. 1 in the state. They came down here and earned it.”

Bittle had 22 points, six rebounds, seven blocks and three assists. Jayden Vranes had seven assists and Kruger Edwards three steals.

Three Churchill players scored in double figures, led by Silas Bennion’s 15.

CHURCHILL (61): Morgan 2, Wallace 12, Bennion 15, O’Neil 4, Goracke 9, Pia 13, Carson 6. Totals: 21 14-18 61.

CRATER (48): J. Vranes 3, Ray 8, C. Vranes 6, Lasater 0, Chubb 7, Eaton 0, Grant 0, Edwards 2, Anhorn 0, Bittle 22, McIntosh 0. Totals: 18 3-7 48.

Churchill11141620— 61

Crater96924— 48

3-point goals — Churchill 5 (Wallace 1, Bennion 1, Goracke 1, Pia 2), Crater 9 (Bittle 4, Chubb 1, Ray 1, J. Vranes 1, C. Vranes 2). Fouled out — Bittle.

Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune Crater's Kruger Edwards dunks the ball after making a steel during the 1st quarter.
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Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune Crater's Nate Bittle blocks the shot of Churchill's Samaje Morgan during the 1st quarter.
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Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune Crater's Nate Bittle blocks the shot of Churchill's Samaje Morgan during the 1st quarter.