The improbable journey of the 2019-20 Cascade Christian Challenger boys basketball team ends with a second-place finish at the Oregon 3A state championship tournament in Coos Bay. The Oregon Episcopal Aardvarks- another team that greatly improved from the year before (they were 5-15 last season)- won a 35-33 defensive struggle to earn the title.
In an incredible turn of events, the two lowest seeded teams in the tournament played for a championship. The tenth-seeded Challengers defeated second-seeded Dayton on Thursday, and upended sixth-seeded St. Mary’s on Friday to punch their ticket to the finals, after winning just eight games in 2018-19, with essentially the same core group of players. The ninth seeded Aardvarks sent shock waves through the 3A boys basketball world by upsetting top-seeded De La Salle North Catholic on Thursday- a team that had twice defeated OES in the regular season. On Friday, Oregon Episcopal rallied past Creswell.
From the beginning, both Cascade Christian and Oregon Episcopal played lock down defense, offering each other few easy looks. After one quarter, the Aardvarks led the Challengers 8-7. While neither team could establish an offensive rhythm, OES used its height advantage to out-rebound the scrappy Challengers, who once again shot well from the free throw line.
With the Aarvarks leading 16-14, Cascade Christian outscored their opponents by four in the third. All the defensive attention paid by OES on Donminic Lewis opened an opportunity for Matt McPheeters to use his long strides and height to drive to the basket. The junior forward earned Player Of The Game honors for Cascade with 10 points, two rebounds, and two steals to lead his team. He also converted six of seven free throw attempts. Though generally kept in check, Lewis added nine points, five rebounds, two assists and a blocked shot, to go with a five for six night at the charity stripe. Layne Collom added eight points and four rebounds in his final high school game.
In the fourth quarter, the two teams swapped leads and momentum. The Aardvarks leading scorer Charles Wilmott put OES ahead on a pair of free throws at 32-31 with 1:15 left to go in the game. The guard led all scorers with 19 points, but worked hard for all he got. Lewis put the Challengers back on top with a layup with just over a minuteto go.
On Oregon Episcopal’s next possession, John Fitzhenry, on just his second attempt of the night, banked home a drive inside the free throw line with 37-seconds to go. The Challengers worked to find an opportunity agaimst the Aardvarks lock down defense. With four seconds left, Matt McPheeters drove to the hoop for a drive that didn’t connect. While there appeared to be considerable defensive contact, there was no foul called. Cascade Christian senior Kiegan Schaan was ruled to have committed an intentional foul on the ensuing, making way for a Jakob Wilkins free throw to supply final score. Congratulations to Oregon Episcopal for an outstanding season. At the end of the day, OES is a worthy champion with a great tournament, beating a De La Salle team that beat them twice, and also overcoming a Challengers team that outscored the Aardvarks 52-44 in the Salem Academy tournament.
The Challengers conclude their season with a 23-6 record- a 15 game improvement over the prior season. Our hats off to seniors Kiegan Schaan and Layne Collom. Collom was the team’s second leading scorer, and free throw shooter, and was also first in 3-point field goals made. Schaan was the team leader in assists, and was second in rebounding, and third in scoring.
For his outstanding play, Donminic Lewis was a unanimous all-tournament team selection.
Good job team! We’re proud of you.