By Jeremy McDonald
TURNER, Ore.– First game of the year, let’s make it the rivalry game. Crazy idea right? A crazy idea that worked ultimately as it came down to the wire between Cascade and Stayton boys basketball.
Going into the second half of the Cougars 47-45 win over the Eagles, neither team held much more than a three-point lead. Ironically Stayton held a 25-22 lead going into the third quarter after a single-digit first frame. But Cascade pushed by the Eagles, building a 28-25 lead as the Eagles swarmed back for the 30-28 lead following a Jacob Axemaker’s three ball with 3:10 left in the third.
It was almost a showcase. Axemaker versus Carson Molan. Both talked about how important it was for their particular defense to slow down the other’s stud player to let the other eight players on the court play. Canceling each other out like a math problem.
Gavin Berning, Dominic Ball and others on the court contributed. Alleviating pressure off Molan and Axemaker in this powder keg-waiting-to-explode game.
“It was definitely hard. I was getting face-guarded all game, that was a challenge…but I was ready for it and I think our boys showed up well for it,” Axemaker said. “(Cascade’s) a good team, they just ball. It was a fun game to play for sure.”
Cascade slowly began to pull away late. Their Calvin Molan-style of play had them rolling in the second half, building a 46-37 lead going under two minutes to play had seemingly put the game to bed as fatigue began sinking in Friday evening.
“It was good because we were working hard the whole night, just trying to lock-up Jacob because we knew he could shoot and score. So we did our job and it felt nice to get a break from working so hard, but then we made some mistakes and then they kind of got back into it. We picked it back up and built our lead a little bit more,” Molan said.
Molan finished with a game-high 19 to Axemaker’s 15 points in the game. His three-pointer with 1:43 had cut the lead to six. Axemaker followed that up with a steal, was fouled and made both free throws following the shot attempt. Henry VanCauteren’s lay-in with 1:06 left in the game had the Eagles knocking on the door down 46-44.
“That’s what ultimately brought us back into this game. If we didn’t get that, we probably lost by ten-or-fifteen. Our defense was great towards the end, we just doubled and trapped, I think it worked well. We got Carson out of his zone, got steals and scored,” Axemaker said.
“It was probably the most intense game I’ve been in my whole High School career so far,” Molan said with a laugh. “Knowing we had the lead and we had to hold onto it, it was a little frightening because they’re a very good team. They kept attacking and knocking down shots, we made mistakes. But just trusting my teammates and myself, especially it was good though. We played together, we played hard and we did what we needed to do.”
Cascade played the keep away game as they held on for the two-point victory at home. Both teams will have another test Saturday though with a quick turnaround, the Cougars playing Philomath and the Eagles playing Newport as basketball season has kicked off.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald