PHS junior Kaden Muir contributes off the bench in the first half. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Piling up points behind a high shooting percentage and a barrage of 3-pointers, Cascade clinched first place in the conference on Monday evening with a 64-61 victory over Philomath in front of a packed gymnasium.

The Cougars (20-3 overall, 10-0 Oregon West) have handed the Warriors their only two losses in Class 4A this season. Based on the quality of the teams in the league this season, it’s possible that the two schools could cross paths again in the playoffs.

Cascade made seven of its eight 3-point attempts in the first half alone and finished the game with a dozen treys — which accounted for 56% of the team’s offensive production. Cascade’s No. 4, sophomore guard Landon Knox, knocked down five 3s, senior teammate Samuel Horne hit four, sophomore Kaiden Ford came off the bench and sank two and senior Rogue Newton buried one in the third quarter.

Based on the first-half results, Philomath High coach Blake Ecker knew his team needed to switch up its defensive look to challenge the Cougars.

“We definitely wanted to get out on the shooters a little more and so we went man-to-man,” he said. “But obviously, they still had five 3s (in the second half), though, too. They just shot the ball really well. I mean, you’ve got to give them credit for that.”

Cascade’s shooting percentage from long range won the game.

Senior Ty May eyes the hoop against the Cougars. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

“Coach (Eddie Van Vlack) always says, it’s a 33% shot typically,” Ecker said about 3-point attempts. “And so, you’re going to live or die by the 3-pointer. I think you’re going to lose some games shooting all those 3s, too, no doubt about it.”

But not on Monday night — the Cougars were tuned in pretty much from the start and hit four in the first quarter for a 19-14 lead. Philomath shot out to a 7-0 lead early on with senior Ty May hitting a couple of jumpers, including a 3 of his own, along with junior Jacob Peters’s basket inside. Horne buried a 3-pointer with 3:34 left in the first to give the Cougars their first lead.

Philomath (19-3, 8-2) had to work through foul trouble early on with May forced to the bench with three fouls by the end of the first quarter. May returned in the second half and then the coach used him carefully the rest of the way so the 6-foot-6 senior was on the floor during pivotal moments late in the game.

On the bright side, junior Kaden Muir produced off the bench nine points in the second quarter through a combination of inside drives and outside shooting — including a 3-pointer. Muir added another hoop in the fourth and ended up with 11 points for the game.

“He’s been doing a really nice job in practice and I think that’s why we feel pretty comfortable with him in there hitting shots and stuff like that,” Ecker said. “He unassuming sometimes but I’m proud of how he played.”

PHS junior Preston Kramer puts up a shot in the lane. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

By halftime, the Cougars were hanging on to a 34-31 lead and the second half was close all the way. The Warriors tied the score, 37-37, at the 4:40 mark of the third quarter following back-to-back baskets by senior Cole Beardsley. After Cascade regained the advantage, the Warriors again tied it up with 1:35 left in the third when Beardsley found Peters for two points.

Beardsley later tied the game, 46-46, with 45 seconds left in the quarter with one of his three 3-pointers of the evening. He nearly hit another one on the third quarter’s final shot at the buzzer but it bounced off the rim.

In the fourth quarter 52 seconds in, the Warriors took their first lead since midway through the first on a Beardsley 3-pointer. The home team then went up 52-48 on a May 3-pointer with 6:40 remaining. Seconds later, Cascade starter Spencer Horne fouled out when Philomath took a charge to jack up the team and crowd even more.

But the momentum dissipated when Beardsley was called for an offensive foul on the other end and May got whistled for his fourth foul. Knox seized the opportunity and drilled a trey to pull the Cougars to within 52-51.

PHS senior Cole Beardsley directs the offense in the first half. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

The Warriors went up 54-51 at the 5:05 mark on a Muir hoop. Cascade tied it up, however, with a putback hoop and a free throw. Philomath took a 56-54 lead with 3:42 left on a couple of free throws by Peters.

As would be the theme of the evening, Cascade countered with a 3-pointer — this one with 3:06 remaining by Ford. The Cougars never trailed again.

After an inside basket by the visitors, Philomath got within 59-58 at 1:43 left on a pair of Peters free throws. Later trailing 60-58, the Warriors turned the ball over with 20 seconds left, Philomath fouled and Samuel Horne hit two foul shots for a four-point lead.

Beardsley responded by calmly drilling a 3-pointer on the other end with 8 seconds left to cut the deficit to 62-61. After forced to foul, Knox hit two free throws for a 3-point Cascade lead and Philomath called a timeout with 2.5 seconds left to set up the final play.

The play had to develop fast and May put up a long 3-point attempt that didn’t fall.

Warriors senior Brody Bushnell passes early in the first quarter. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

“They got up through the screen and they cheated across it, which you know, we didn’t want a 2, it was going to have to be a 3, but that’s basically what we drew up,” Ecker said about the last play. “If we were wanting a 2, we would have slipped one of our posts down to the block and he would’ve been wide open right there in that situation.”

But with only a couple of seconds remaining out of the timeout, the Warriors had no choice but to get up a shot from the perimeter.

May and Beardsley each finished with 13 points, Peters had 12 and Muir finished with those 11. Knox scored 23 and Samuel Horne had 18 for the Cougars.

The Warriors remain No. 1 in the OSAA rankings with Junction City at No. 2 and Cascade at No. 3. Despite finishing second in the Oregon West, Philomath will get an automatic berth in the 4A playoffs in one of the two at-large spots.

The final rankings will freeze after Tuesday night’s games and then the play-in game pairings and full brackets will be announced.

The Warriors have scheduled a tune-up game for Thursday at North Eugene, a 5A school that heading into a Tuesday night game sports a 15-7 record and top-10 ranking. The contest is scheduled for a 7 p.m. tip-off.

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.