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Onward Crusade

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The lessons learned through a challenging time in December have paid off for the St. Mary’s boys basketball team since the calendar turned to 2017, and nowhere was that more evident than in the Crusaders’ gym Tuesday night.

St. Mary’s found itself down six points entering the final quarter in a Southern Cascade League playoff game against Lakeview but found the resolve to turn things around for a 43-42 win to secure a berth in the Class 3A state playoffs.

The Crusaders outscored Lakeview 9-2 over the final five minutes of the fourth quarter on key inside scoring by Bryce Bramscher and Travis Danielson and a pair of clutch free throws by Gavin Rajagopal that forged the final outcome.

“I think one of the things we’ve done here since January is we’ve learned how to win games and learned how to close,” said first-year St. Mary’s head coach Tam Vu. “That’s something we didn’t know how to do in December and we’ve figured that part of it out, and it really came to light today again for us.”

For their efforts, the Crusaders (12-11) will square off against crosstown rival Cascade Christian (21-4) at 7 p.m. Saturday to determine the SCL’s Nos. 1 and 2 seeds to the state playoffs. The fourth-ranked Challengers routed St. Mary’s 65-29 when the teams last met at Cascade Christian on Jan. 7 and then won the rematch 54-49 in overtime on Jan. 27.

“Going over to Cascade, we’ve got some bad memories of early January,” said Vu. “We talked about it as a group just now that we’ve got to prepare in these next three days to go over there because they’re going to be guns a blazing and we’re going to try to take it to them.”

While the pressure may be off since a playoff berth isn’t at stake as it was Tuesday, the Crusaders definitely won’t be taking it easy Saturday.

“I think our goal is still to win the league tournament,” said Vu. “It is nice to have a state playoff spot secured but we sure would like to have a home playoff spot.”

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