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Challengers charge on to 3A state tournament

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Maurer, Reece lead way as 4th-seeded Cascade Christian advances

As he watched his 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter swish through the net, Cascade Christian senior Cody Reece turned to the Challengers’ student section that was right behind him.

The smile on his face and point to his buddies said it all.

It was an exclamation point kind of moment for fourth-seeded Cascade Christian, knowing full well what is coming up next.

Reece scored 15 points and dished out nine assists and sophomore center Austin Maurer had 21 points, 18 rebounds and six blocks in the Challengers’ 63-35 win over No. 13 seed Portland Adventist Academy in the opening round of the Class 3A boys basketball state playoffs Thursday night.

“I was really just trying to enjoy the moment,” said Reece, who was playing his final game at the Challengers’ gym. “This environment here tonight was pretty much a once-in-a-lifetime playoff environment that you don’t get too often. I was just trying to take advantage of the time I have here and be with my buddies one last time. It was fun.”

It was just that kind of night for Cascade Christian (20-5), with a crowd that wanted to be loud and make things tough on the visitors from Portland and certainly had plenty to be happy about.

“It was great,” said the 6-foot-10 Maurer, the Far West League’s player of the year this season. “The student section was great. It was loud and it was just a great environment for us to come out with a win.”

The win, a fifth straight for Cascade Christian, means the Challengers are heading to the Oregon coast once again for the 3A state tournament, which gets underway next Thursday in Coos Bay.

Cascade will face the winner of tonight’s matchup between fifth-seeded Santiam Christian and No. 12 Umatilla at 3:15 p.m. at North Bend High School.

It’s familiar territory for head coach Brian Morse and his FWL champion Challengers, with Cascade making the state championship game in 2020 and again playing for a title last spring at the Class 3A culminating week tournament.

“The kids all year worked super hard for securing this first-round home playoff game,” said Morse. “I think the last time we lost here (in the playoffs) was 2005, so we have a long streak of winning in the first round here. We feel confident here and you could see the way we played strong offensively and how we shot the ball well. It’s real key because, yes, we’re in the final eight again, but we have the goal of winning the state championship.”

The Challengers never trailed Thursday night. Thanks to a pair of three-point plays from Maurer and Daniel Nering within a minute of each other and Cannon Anderson’s 3-pointer right before the buzzer, the Challengers used a 9-2 run to close the first quarter to push their lead close to double digits for the first time.

The run was only extended come the second quarter, as Reece’s coast-to-coast layup and Maurer’s 3-pointer from the right corner made it 22-8 with six minutes to go before halftime.

Anderson scored the final six points of the Challengers’ 21-6 run that opened up a 29-12 lead, the last basket coming off a right-handed heave from Maurer on the defensive end of the court that hit Anderson in stride for an easy layup.

All told, after Portland Adventist (12-12) came within two points at 8-6, Cascade Christian outscored the Cougars 26-13 the rest of the first half.

“We just had to keep our effort up and not settle on the score,” said Maurer of what keyed the big first-half run. “We just needed to step on their throats when we needed to.”

The Challengers again extended their lead come the start of the second half, playing arguably their best quarter of defense in the third period.

Cascade Christian limited Portland Adventist to just one third-quarter field goal, outscoring the Cougars 16-3 to make it a 50-22 ballgame heading to the final quarter.

Maurer, who had 13 points in the first half, scored eight of those 16 third-quarter points, including back-to-back 3-pointers from the right wing and then the top of the arc.

“He’s huge and coming into this year we knew he would be a big piece to our program,” said Reece of Maurer, who entered Thursday’s game averaging 24 points. “He’s a once-in-a-lifetime kind of athlete and you don’t get those kinds of people coming through your program very often. It’s really nice to have somebody like that pushing you in practice, but also he’s almost 7 feet tall so you can get a lot done.”

The mindset coming in was simply to take care of business.

And the Challengers did just that.

“We don’t take care of business tonight then we can’t do anything in the next couple of rounds,” said Reece. “The last couple of years we came up short, so it was a good start to hopefully changing the outcome this year.”

Anderson, who was starting his first game after missing nearly a month and a half due to a broken wrist, scored nine of his 12 points in the first half, providing a third option for Cascade Christian as Portland Adventist threw just about everything at the Challengers defensively to try and stop Maurer.

Cascade Christian’s Triston Wallace and Bryley Richardson both chipped in six points.

Portland Adventist, which finished fourth in the Lewis & Clark League this season, got 15 points from senior Hudson Miner.

“This year, we’ve got the difference with our big guy in the middle,” said Morse. “Last year he was injured, so he didn’t get to play in the state championship game. But with him and Cody, we’ve also got some other guys stepping up. That was the good thing I saw about tonight is that we had some of our bench guys and younger guys stepping up. It was really good to see that production.

“We know Cody and Austin are going to see the things that they do, but it’s what the other guys are going to do. People might say ‘Oh, Cascade’s a two-man team,’ but we have other guys who are playing with confidence and stepping up.”

Now all the Challengers’ attention turns to their latest trip to the coast.

And just as their mindset was simple Thursday night, things are very much the same come next week.

“Go win it,” said Maurer without hesitation.

PORTLAND ADVENTIST ACADEMY (35): Wright 3, Mejia 0, Miner 14, Petersen 0, Patchin 7, Cereghino 3, Werner 0, Custer 2, Chamberlain 0, Bobrishev 6. Totals: 16 1-2 35.

CASCADE CHRSTIAN (63): Reece 15, Anderson 12, Wallace 6, Hess 0, Sample 0, Hoffman 0, A. Maurer 21, Bryant 0, Nering 3, Westlake 0, Richardson 6. Totals: 23 8-11 63.

Portland Adventist Academy811313— 35

Cascade Christian17171613— 63

3-point goals — Portland Adventist Academy 2 (Patchin 1, Bobrishev 1), Cascade Christian 9 (Reece 3, Anderson 1, A. Maurer 3, Richardson 2).

Reach reporter Danny Penza at 541-776-4469 or dpenza@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @penzatopaper.

Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneCascade Christian's Austin Maurer shoots a 3-pointer during the third quarter of Thursday night’s Class 3A state tournament game Portland Adventist Academy.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneCascade Christian's Austin Maurer blocks the shot of Portland Adventist Academy's Hudson Cereghino during the third quarter on Thursday night.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneCascade Christian's Bryley Richardson shoots a 3-pointer during the third quarter of Thursday night’s Class 3A state tournament game Portland Adventist Academy.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneCascade Christian's Austin Maurer dunks the ball during the first quarter of Thursday night’s Class 3A state tournament game Portland Adventist Academy.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneCascade Christian's Cody Reece shoots a 3-pointer during the fourth quarter of Thursday night’s Class 3A state tournament game Portland Adventist Academy.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneCascade Christian's Cannon Anderson drives to the basket during the second quarter of Thursday night’s Class 3A state tournament game Portland Adventist Academy.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneCascade Christian's Cody Reece shoots in the paint during the third quarter of Thursday night’s Class 3A state tournament game Portland Adventist Academy.