Westside Christian's Dax Hanzlik drives to the hoop against Harrisburg in Friday's semifinal win. (Photo by John Gunther)
Westside Christian's Dax Hanzlik drives to the hoop against Harrisburg in Friday's semifinal win. (Photo by John Gunther)


COOS BAY — Two-time defending champion Cascade Christian tops the 3A coaches poll and Westside Christian has the top spot in the power rankings.

On Saturday night, one will be crowned champion in the OSAA/OnPoint Community Credit Union state tournament after both won their semifinal games Friday at Marshfield High School.

“I think it’s the best two teams — it’s what everybody wanted to see,” Cascade Christian star Austin Maurer said.

Westside Christian outlasted Harrisburg 56-48 in the first semifinal and Cascade Christian pulled away in the fourth quarter to beat Valley Catholic 70-57 in the second game.

It’s the second straight year the two schools have met for the championship. They tip off at 6:30 p.m. in the Pirate Palace.

Westside Christian used a couple of timely spurts to secure its win, one spurred by the defense and the other by a big 3-pointer.

Harrisburg had a two-point lead and the ball in the final minute of the third quarter when three straight turnovers led to seven fast-break points and a 43-38 lead for Westside Christian heading to the final eight minutes.

“Our defense drives everything,” said Westside Christian’s Dax Hanzlik. “We’ve got our pests up front (guards Kahlid HodgeJack Leland and Will Ficker) and our posts inside blocking shots.

“Sometimes our shots aren’t going and we get energy from the defense.”

Harrisburg recovered from that spurt and the teams battled back and forth for the first half of the fourth quarter before another big spurt.

Harrisburg missed a 3-pointer in a tie game with just under 4 minutes to go and Leland hit one for Westside Christian on the other end while a teammate was being fouled away from the ball. That gave possession back to Westside Christian and Hanzlik had a three-point play that was too much for Harrisburg to overcome.

“We tried hard,” Harrisburg coach Terry Crabb said. “I can’t fault our effort.

“We just had too many turnovers at the wrong time. They’re so quick.”

Much earlier, Harrisburg overcame an early 8-0 deficit with 15 straight points before the teams settled into the back-and-forth, tight contest. Harrisburg led 17-11 through one quarter and Westside Christian was up 29-26 entering the halftime locker room.

Harrisburg’s crowd, which was vocal throughout the game, was on the verge of an eruption if their 3-pointer had gone in midway through the fourth, and the ensuing 6-0 spurt fueled Westside Christian’s fans.

“Their crowd fired me up,” Leland said. “The six straight points made our crowd go crazy.”

They expect a similar loud crowd for the championship game, where they will try to do what they couldn’t last year and win the final contest.

“We want to win a championship,” Hanzlik said. “Last year was tough. We want the blue trophy.”

Harrisburg, meanwhile, will try to bounce back from the tough loss in the third-place game.

Crabb said he expected his team would get back up for that contest.

“I told them already, ‘If I told you at the start of the year you would go 23-6 and take third place would you take it?’” he said. “They said ‘Yeah.’ I said, ‘Go get it.’”

Hanzlik had 19 points to lead Westside Christian, while Ficker had 12, Leland 10 and Hodge eight.

Jack Lidbeck had four 3-pointers and 14 points to lead Harrisburg. Terren Crabb added 12, Jackson Davis 11 and Jayden Bellinger eight.

The nightcap also was close into the fourth quarter, because every time Cascade Christian started to build a lead, the Valiants hit timely shots to get back into the contest … until the final quarter.

Cascade Christian led by as many as 10 in the third quarter, but Valley Catholic got hot outside, with three 3-pointers by Dylan Trobetsky and another by Jackson Farris as the Valiants pulled with 53-48 with eight minutes to go.

Valley Catholic also got the first points of the final quarter on two free throws by Noah Holub, but then Cascade Christian went on a 15-0 run as the Valiants went six minutes without scoring.

“We had it for 3 ½ quarters and we fell flat,” said acting Valley Catholic coach John Efstathiou (head coach Jeb Ivey is missing the tournament because of required firefighter training).

Efstathiou was thrilled with his team’s effort.

“We had a chance,” he said, before adding, with emphasis that he wasn’t making a pun, “We played valiantly.”

Valley Catholic kept the game close in part by keeping Maurer in check the entire first half.

“We threw three different defenses at him and they finally figured out how to get him the ball,” Efstathiou said.

Maurer finished with 25 points, but 19 of them came in the second half.

Meanwhile, Jaren Fronckowiak and Avery Huston sparked Cascade Christian the opening two quarters.

“When they score, it frees everybody up and we are able to play our game,” Maurer said.

Fronckowiak hit four 3-pointers and scored 15 of his 20 points in the first half. Huston had eight points in the first quarter and finished with 15.

“Jaren really carried us in the first half,” Cascade Christian coach Brian Morse said. “And Avery hit some big shots.”

Luke Jarussi had 12 points to lead Valley Catholic while Trobetsky and Farris added 11 each and Zach Pippin had nine.

When the game was clearly out of reach, the team had one of its biggest celebrations when Jordan Baumgartner, a senior who rarely plays, hit a 3-pointer right before the final buzzer after his teammates passed the ball three times to find him open at the top of the key. Baumgartner and a teammate alternate who dresses down as the Valiants’ 12th player, the limit for games at state.

“It was really neat to see them get him the ball and see him knock down a 3 at state in his final game,” Efsathiou said.

Valley Catholic has one more game, against Harrisburg. And Cascade Christian has another title showdown with Westside Christian.

It will be the Challengers’ third straight game against a co-champion of the Lewis & Clark League.

“They are battle-tested,” Maurer said of Westside Christian.

And they are coached by David Henry, who played for Cascade Christian and coached with Morse for a number of seasons.

“We’re real excited to play them,” Morse said.

It’s the fifth straight season the Challengers have played for the title.

“I feel so blessed to be in the state championship game five years in a row,” Morse said. “It’s a huge testament to what the kids do and these coaches do. But we’re not finished yet. We’ve got one to go.”