PHS senior Chad Russell, seen here in the team’s season opener, scored the go-ahead basket in overtime to help the Warriors to a 47-44 win over Cascade Christian. (File photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Although a lot of buzz revolved around Cascade Christian’s Austin Maurer, a 7-foot center that Oregon State wants to add to its roster, it was Philomath’s own big man, Chad Russell, who stole the show Saturday night in the Les Schwab South Coast Tournament championship game.

After Cascade Christian rallied in the fourth quarter to force overtime, Russell drove to the hoop and scored off the glass with 36 seconds left in the extra period to give the Warriors the lead. The rest of the game played out at the free-throw line and Philomath took a 47-44 victory to remain unbeaten on the season at 7-0.

“We called a play that honestly, we ran last year against them, too,” Ecker said, the Warriors beating the Challengers 52-50 in that one. “We called timeout and said look, it’s going to be open and it worked to perfection — getting Chad the ball on a good one.”

On the play, senior guard Cole Beardsley worked the ball into the corner and lobbed the pass into Russell who finished with a strong move.

“They’re a good team and they’ll probably win the 3A title again,” Ecker said about the Challengers. “They’ve got a Division I player on the team and a sophomore guard, No. 11 (Drew Hall), was awfully good.”

Going up against Maurer, Ecker said there were some different strategies to combat his height advantage.

“We just needed to put guys in certain spots so that he wasn’t near the basket defending it,” Ecker said. “That was the big deal that we were trying to do and sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. He’s a shot blocker and he would come across and block a shot and so we had to get him out of there somehow.”

Philomath held leads of 19-15 after the first quarter and 31-24 at halftime behind a productive first half. Senior Ty May scored seven of his nine points in the first quarter, including a 3-pointer. Junior Preston Kramer factored in heavily with the scoring by throwing in nine points in the first half, a 3-pointer among his baskets. Beardsley buried a trio of 3-pointers before the break.

“Cole in the first half played really, really well and then Preston Kramer came on and was one of our leading scorers,” Ecker said. “He made some big shots driving to the basket and hit a big 3 in the first half as well.”

The Warriors’ offense hit a wall in the second half, however, and scored just six in the third and four in the fourth.

Cascade Christian’s Maurer was fairly consistent throughout the game with nine in the first half and 11 in the second half — an athlete capable of hitting 3-pointers (two in the first quarter) as well as free throws (finished 6 for 7 from the line).

Philomath led 41-39 as the clock went under a minute to play. Cascade Christian tied it up, however, with 45 seconds left on a steal and hoop by Triston Wallace.

The Warriors couldn’t get the ball in the hoop over those last few minutes of regulation.

“We were trying to score, trying different things and we called timeout,” Ecker said. “We couldn’t get anything good and finally, we get off a 3 by Cole at the buzzer and it went off the mark.”

In overtime, Philomath controlled possession through the first two minutes before turning it over on a 5-second call.

“Again, they played great ‘D’ and we’re trying to run stuff and still trying to get a good shot and just couldn’t find anything,” Ecker said.

The Challengers were not able to capitalize on the 5-second turnover and missed a shot that was rebounded by Philomath’s Jacob Peters with 1:32 left. Later with 52 seconds left in the OT, Hall got to the free-throw line but missed both attempts. May snagged the rebound on the second miss to give PHS possession.

Russell’s hoop with 36 seconds left followed to give Philomath the lead. It ended up being the only field goal of the four-minute overtime with all other points coming on free throws. Beardsley sank a pair of foul shots with 13 seconds left and May followed with two more with 3 seconds left.

Maurer was the only Challenger in double figures with 20. Ecker said Russell put in an exceptional performance inside working against Maurer.

“He did a nice job holding down their big kid — he still had 20 points but he did a great job defending him pretty well, blocked a shot a few times,” Ecker said. “He was instrumental, no doubt about it.”

Beardsley and Kramer each finished with 13 to lead Philomath scorers.

Four teams remain unbeaten in Class 4A and all of them are in the Oregon West Conference — Philomath (7-0), Cascade (5-0), North Marion (5-0) and Stayton (4-0).

The Warriors will play in their third tournament of the month on Dec. 28-30 at the Clarke Cochrane Christmas Classic in Ketchikan, Alaska.