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Valley Catholic boys roll in tourney-opening win over Cascade


Gabe Taylor pours in 21 points and Jarrett Gray 16 more in the win

COOS BAY — The Valley Catholic boys basketball team rolled into the Class 3A state tournament with a ton of momentum, then used that “big mo” to roll past Cascade Christian in its March 1 tourney opener.by: MILES VANCE - TO THE HOOP - Valley Catholic senior Liam Cassidy goes up for a reverse layin in his team's quarterfinal win over Cascade Christian at the Class 3A state tournament on Feb. 28 at North Bend High School.

Facing the Southern Cascade League champion Challengers in their opener at North Bend High School, the Valiants used a shutdown defensive performance and a three-headed offensive performance from Gabe Taylor, Jarrett Gray and Liam Cassidy to notch a 64-44 quarterfinal victory.

As a team, Valley Catholic held Cascade Christian to just 32 percent shooting from the field, while Taylor broke loose for 21 points, Gray added 16 and Cassidy nine more in the win.

“We were expecting them to play really hard and really tough and that's what they did,” said Taylor, who hit 7-of-15 shots from the floor and 7-of-11 from the foul line in the win. “We just went out and played with our intensity high. Everyone just played hard.”

“We've been pretty poised all year in big games and this is just another example of us doing that,” said Cassidy, the team's lone senior starter. “We were ready roll so it was good.”

The win lifted Lewis & Clark League champion Valley Catholic's season record to 23-3, while the Challengers went on to win twice in consolation to finish fourth with a season record of 24-6.

As to that momentum, Valley Catholic hit the ground running against Cascade Christian, ripping off a 13-3 run in the first 5 minutes, 22 seconds of the game, then pushing its lead to 19-7 at the end of the opening quarter. Cassidy connected in the lane to get things started, Taylor followed with a pull-up jumpshot from the top of the key, Gray stepped up next with a three-pointer, Taylor turned in a three-point play and Tysen Prunty buried a “three” from the left side for that 13-3 edge with 2:38 to go in the period.

Kazuma Lane hit a late three-pointer at the end of the first quarter for VC, then pushed its edge to 21-9 when Cassidy scored at the rim with 5:28 remaining in the first half.

The Challengers didn't give up without a fight, though. They dropped a pair of “threes” on VC in the next couple minutes — one by Cody Coggins and another from Jake Brown — and cut Valley Catholic's lead to 22-15 with 3:48 remaining in the opening half.

But that was really the Challengers' last big charge at VC. The Valiants came back with six straight points by Gray — two foul shots and then back-to-back Gray steals and breakaways — to take their lead back to 28-14 with 3:04 to go before the half, then tacked on a late Carter Buuck putback hoop to make it 32-16 at the break.

Taylor scored back-to-back hoops to kick off the third quarter, and the Valiants never let the Challengers closer than 14 points in the period, eventually closing the frame with a 51-29 lead when Cassidy hit a buzzer-beating three-pointer from the right side.

There was more of the same in the final period too, with VC getting five points from Gray and another four from Alex Butz in the fourth, and never letting Cascade Christian closer than 18 at any point.

“We just did a really good job of talking on defense and playing hard,” Taylor said. “If you could define how we play in two words, it's just that we play hard.”

“We got good efforts from everyone on the floor that came in,” Cassidy added. “We were just kind of 'All in. All night.'”

For the game, Gray went 6-for-7 from the field (including two “threes”) with two assists and three steals, and Prunty added seven points in the win. For Cascade Christian, Brown led the way with 10 points, Coggins added nine and Troy Thompson eight.

To see a complete photo gallery from this game, please go to milesvance.exposuremanager.com.