PHS senior Cole Beardsley buries one of his four 3-pointers in the first half. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

FOREST GROVE — Philomath High’s boys basketball team will get another shot at Cascade.

The Warriors and Cougars both won in the semifinals Friday to set up an all-Oregon West final in Saturday night’s Class 4A state championship game. Philomath knocked out Henley, 45-37, and Cascade followed with a 66-53 victory over Junction City.

It’s a matchup that many among Warrior Nation wanted to see materialize. Two of the team’s three losses this season came to the Cougars — 50-49 at Cascade and 64-61 at Philomath. The Cougars built an early lead and then held on for life in the first meeting and in the rematch, Cascade couldn’t miss from 3-point range.

Veteran Warriors coach Blake Ecker said he’s happy for his players to have the opportunity to play for the state title.

“They battled, they fought hard and it’s been a long season for them,” Ecker said. “I mean, they’ve had a target on their back for a long time and now we’re where we wanted to be at the start of the season.”

But it’s not over just yet. No celebrating. One more game.

“We’ve just got to go out and compete and play as hard as we can in the next game — no matter who we play,” said Ecker, who made those comments prior to Cascade’s win over the Tigers.

Senior Ty May goes up for two points against the Hornets. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Against Henley, Philomath struggled at times on offense but battled hard on defense to end up with the eight-point win. 

“We knew that’s the most important job that we had tonight,” Beardsley said about defense. “Nothing’s coming easy out here at state so we definitely had to get out on their shooters and get boards when we needed to.”

Philomath’s 1-3-1 defense caused all kinds of problems for Henley.

“That’s our go-to … we’ve done it all year,” Beardsley said. “We did it against them earlier in the year and it clearly worked because we beat them by 30 last time. They’re a much-better team now.”

The Warriors and Hornets were even in several statistical categories. Philomath shot 45.7% from the field, for example, while Henley came in at 42.1%. Both teams had 23 rebounds and made more than 40% of their 3-point attempts.

A closer look at some of the other numbers reveals more of the story. Philomath had a dozen steals and seven blocked shots. And Henley turned the ball over 23 times — a few of those were unforced errors but most caused by Philomath’s D.

“I give our guys a lot of credit for getting after them and playing hard that way — flying around, getting tips and rebounding,” Eker said. “They didn’t have a lot of extra opportunities at the basket.”

Junior Jacob Peters looks inside toward senior Chad Russell during Friday’s win over Henley. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Henley’s big No. 44, Markus McCreadie, finished with 16 points but the rest of the Hornets’ lineup combined for just 21.

“We did a really good job of getting out on their shooters and not allowing them too many open looks from the 3-point line,” Ecker said.

Let this statistic sink in. Henley went nearly eight minutes of clock time — the equivalent of a full quarter — without any points. Shaw Stork scored on a jump shot to give Cascade a 16-15 lead with 3:53 remaining in the first half. The team’s next points did come until 4:11 remaining in the third quarter on a basket by Owen Cheyne.

Philomath’s offense was one-dimensional early on with Beardsley finding the zone from 3-point range. In fact, the Warriors first nine points were scored on Beardsley 3-pointers. The senior guard had four in the game with all of those coming in the first half.

“There are certain guys on our team that have more of a green light than others — there’s no doubt about it,” Ecker said when asked about Beardsley. “Guys have limitations … it just depends on who it is in that situation.”

Philomath High coaches, players and fans applaud a defensive play in the second half. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Neither team had a lead of more than three points through most of the first half but Philomath started to create separation by finishing the half on an 8-0 run. Beardsley hit one of his 3s and also had a free throw to score four of those eight points. Preston Kramer hit a basket and Ty May sank two foul shots for a 23-16 lead at halftime.

In the third, both teams had a slow start but May hit a 3-pointer with 5:30 left in the quarter for a 26-16 lead. But the Hornets wouldn’t go away and came within two points of the lead on a couple of occasions.

After Cheyne scored with 6 minutes remaining in the game, Henley trailed just 32-30. Philomath had answers, though and went on a 10-2 run. Kramer had a couple of key baskets in that stretch and both Chad Russell and May scored as well. The capper came when Beardsley got a steal and layup with 1:04 remaining for a 42-32 lead and the rest was history.

Beardsley had a game-high 17 points with four 3s, two regular baskets and a free throw, as well as four assists. May ended up with 13 points, which included a 3-pointer and 6 of 10 from the free-throw line. He also had three blocked shots. Kramer had eight points and eight rebounds.

PHS junior Preston Kramer works the ball against Henley. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Saturday night’s game is scheduled for a late tip-off of 8:30 p.m. at Forest Grove High School.

If recent history between the two schools holds true, the championship game will be close. Over the past three seasons, all six games were decided by single digits. The Cougars won four of those games with an average margin of victory of 4.5 points. And coincidentally, Philomath’s two wins were by three and six points — also an average spread of 4.5 points.

Cascade enters the game on an eight-game winning streak with the last loss coming Feb. 4 at Baker. In the state playoffs, the Cougars defeated The Dalles (70-31) and Marist Catholic (74-35) before downing Junction City by 13 points.

Meanwhile, Philomath’s only two losses in Oregon this season came against Cascade. The Warriors’ other setback occurred in the championship game of the tournament in Alaska. Philomath also lost an exhibition game against a group of alumni — which mistakenly shows up on the team’s record because it was recorded on the OSAA website.

The Warriors’ path to the 4A title went through Hidden Valley (65-40) and Crook County (54-43) before the eight-point win over Henley.

Brad Fuqua

Brad Fuqua, Philomath News

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.

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