It’s been a memorable season for the Santiam Christian High boys basketball team as the Eagles finished 21-5 overall and 11-3 in the West Valley League.
After dispatching of Salem Academy 72-61 in the first round of the 3A playoffs, the third-seeded Eagles now head to Coos Bay for the 3A state tournament for a rematch with Cascade Christian (18-9 overall) in the quarterfinals at 8:15 p.m. Thursday at Marshfield High.
The Eagles and Challengers met back on Dec. 22 with SC coming out on top, 52-48, in what was a very closely contested back-and-forth battle.
As the two teams prepare to meet for the second time this season, SC coach Dennis McLain knows that the rematch with CC will be a very similar game that is going to go down to the wire.
“We know that they are a very good team. Obviously they are one of the top teams in the state and have had the toughest schedule in 3A,” McLain said. “I expect it to be a very close battle this time too. It’s going to be close the whole way.”
As far as the 3A tournament goes, McLain knows that the team that comes out ready to play can often times win the title, while the team that comes out sluggish can be out rather quickly. He and his staff are hoping the former carries the Eagles deep into postseason play in Coos Bay.
“Going to the state tournament, you just don’t know what’s going to happen in that first game,” McLain said. “If one of the teams gets hot, they are going to have a great chance of winning the tournament. But if a team comes out and plays tentative, they aren’t going to do very well. That first game is going to depend on the boys and how they handle that excitement and pressure of the first game.”
For SC to have success, it’s going to start with the Eagles’ two playmakers — senior point guard Grant Carley and junior forward Zach Baugher. The duo combine for just over 35 points per game and will be counted on by McLain to execute and make plays.
For Baugher, who leads the team in scoring with just over 24 points per game, this rematch with Cascade Christian is going to be a tough, physical battle where the team that makes plays down the stretch comes out on top.
“We are expecting a very tough game,” Baugher said. “They are a very well-coached team and they play extremely hard and knock down shots. Last time we played them they hit a lot of 3s and found some holes in our defense. We need to play tougher and more physical on defense and match their intensity.”
Carley has been one of the key reasons why SC has had the impressive season that it has had. While he’s only averaging 11 points per game, his role as a distributor to Baugher and others makes him a dangerous floor general. Carley feels that he and his team have grown chemistry-wise over the course of the season and that could give them a leg up in postseason play.
“We’ve really bonded well as a team both on and off the court and just love being around each other and hanging out,” Carley said. “We enjoy those experiences and it really helps mold us on the court. It’s nice to have good shooters and players on the court with you to make you look good with those assists.”