It was nice to be back in Philomath, even without the band and the normally ruckus crowd. It was also nice to see the Wild West Conference hasn’t lost its way.
Here are some takeaways, first for Cascade:
- There was one main question still facing Cascade coming into tonight: Can the Cougars win a slow paced, excessively physical, defensive oriented game – especially on the road? The answer, now apparent, is yes. Cascade has the size, the quickness, and most importantly the depth to play a wide range of paces and styles. This was not always true, especially last season. That exact style of game ended their season last time around. Now, with the further development of one key piece, that problem is solved.
- Sweet Jesus, Dom Ball is a freak of nature. Philomath won the offensive boards tonight 8-1, but only converted on one of those extra attempts. Simply, you can get the board, but if you get it in the paint and try to go up, the shot will end up in the bleachers. Philomath did a good job of keeping him out of the game offensively in the first half, but as the Warrior defense wore down, and front line players got into foul trouble, that was it. There might not be a single player at the 4A level that can guard him in the post one on one. Last year there were concerns about physical maturity, those have passed entirely. He is a bona fide star.
- Cascade stayed alive tonight in the Oregon West Conference title chase because they exemplified every trait they were thought to have been lacking: physicality, resourcefulness, patience, and grit. Cascade is absolutely tier one; another question answered tonight.
Now, for the Warriors:
- Cherish Michael Lundy while you have him. He and Carson Molan will have a fascinating, to-the-wire race for conference player of the year. 26 points tonight to go with multiple steals, he is a joy to watch. His offensive output probably should’ve been enough to put the Warriors over the top, if not for one massive problem.
- The Warriors are tremendous defensively and on the rebounds when healthy and out of foul trouble. The latter tonight was not sustained. Both Ty May and Chad Russell got into foul trouble early, and May played on four fouls virtually the entire fourth quarter. Being able to challenge Dom Ball aggressively, and bounce around in the 2-3 zone for long stretches of time with your best and biggest defenders on the floor is essential to beating a team like Cascade. Philomath has it in them to beat the Cougars, they’ve already done it once this season, but the real damage done tonight was potentially giving opposing coaches a blueprint on how to break, or at least loosen, the vaunted Warrior defense.
- There’s nothing to really panic about tonight. Return Chase Beardsley next game, stay the course, and there’s no reason Philomath can’t win out or come close to it; and in the process win the OWC outright. Philomath is tier one, no questions before or after this game on that end.