PHS senior Chad Russell had six blocked shots for the Warriors in Thursday’s playoff win over Crook County. (File photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

The Philomath High School boys basketball team built a double-digit lead in the second quarter and held off all Crook County challenges in the second half for a 54-43 victory Thursday afternoon in the Class 4A state quarterfinals at Forest Grove.

The top-seeded Warriors (21-3) advance to the semifinals at 6:30 p.m. Friday against Henley. The Hornets defeated Baker, 77-61, in their quarterfinal matchup.

“Both teams are really athletic,” PHS coach Blake Ecker said before the Henley-Baker game was played. “We’ve got to be prepared to play because every game is going to be tough. Baker does a lot of full-court trap and Henley’s just super athletic and has good size as well. Hopefully we can squeak out another one.”

If the Warriors get through the semifinals, the championship game awaits at 8:30 p.m. Saturday.

Philomath had a bit of a slow start against Crook County (16-9) and trailed by three points three minutes into the game. The Warriors took their first lead at 6-5 with 3:27 left in the first on a Ty May basket.

After the Cowboys regained the lead, Jacob Peters scored on a layup for an 8-7 lead. Crook County tied it seconds later but Kaden Muir took a pass from Cole Beardsley and scored in the paint to give Philomath a 10-8 lead.

The Warriors were up 12-10 at the end of the first.

Ecker said the team played better once it started passing the ball rather than putting up shots right away.

“Once we did that, once we were able to just play, we did well, we looked good,” Ecker said. “When we go into that selfish pattern, that’s frustrating.”

PHS senior Ty May scored 16 points and grabbed eight rebounds. (File photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Although Philomath never relinquished the lead, the game remained close through much of the second quarter. A Peters basket at the 4:40 mark broke a tie and put the Warriors up 17-15. Later, leading 21-19, Philomath went on a 12-2 run to take a 12-point lead at the break.

Philomath scored 12 points in the final 1:57 of the second quarter. Preston Kramer buried a 3-pointer, Chad Russell scored inside and May had a traditional three-point play for a 30-19 lead with 48 seconds left. 

Philomath’s defense came up big in the quarter, including back-to-back blocks by Russell late in the half. Crook County scored with 3 seconds left but the Warriors took momentum into the locker room at the intermission on a 3-point buzzer beater by Beardsley.

“They were getting to the rim at times on us … but Ty and Chad really did a nice job of checking the rim,” Ecker said about the defense. “I bet Chad had six or seven blocks and they had a kid inside they would get it to, a super athletic kid, and we did a nice job on him — he only had 10 points.”

The official stats indeed had Russell down for six of the team’s eight blocked shots with May getting the other two.

In the third quarter, Philomath allowed only eight points and led 46-29 going into the final eight minutes. May’s 3-pointer with 2:32 left in the quarter put the Warriors up by 16. Later, a Muir layup on a follow-up gave Philomath an 18-point advantage with 1:11 left.

The Warriors led by as many as 21 when Peters scored inside for a 50-29 advantage with 4:58 remaining in the game.

May, who earned the team’s player of the game recognition, finished with 16 points, including a 3-pointer, and had eight rebounds. Peters had 12 points and six boards and Kramer contributed 11 points, including a pair of 3-pointers. Beardsley was held below his scoring average but he had 10 rebounds, six assists and three steals — all game-high numbers.

Crook County’s Cameron Carr had 11 points and Edward Freauff finished with 10. The Cowboys came into the game on a hot streak with wins in 11 of its last 12.

“They’ve been playing a lot better. They’re still kinda young and they’re going to be really good next year — they return their best players.”

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