Third Time’s the Charm: Challengers Finally Get Over the Hump, Win First Title Since 2009

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After all this time, after all this team–and the world–has gone through since March 2020, they finally did it. Cascade Christian finally found the mountaintop. There is so much to admire about this team and the story they bring with them. To know what this victory means is to truly understand their hardship. To hear the echoes of games past in tonight’s contest is to have witnessed the fall of the mighty that preceded them. Tonight was truly, truly poetic.

Flashback to the last basketball game before COVID: OES vs. CC for the state championship. The Challengers played great defense–as did the Aardvarks–but were behind the 8-ball offensively. It was two knockout, physical teams clashing rather than a true contrast in styles. The Challengers fell, being beaten at their own game.

In the COVID season tournament, played in July of 2021, the Challengers faced the upstart, fast-paced Yamhill-Carlton Tigers. Star-studded, offensively dominant, and at home in a game full of fast breaks, Cascade Christian faced its ideological opposite. The Challengers started strong, but they faded late under the pressure of the YC attack, falling victim to a pace with which they could not keep up.

Tonight, Cascade Christian faced a team in De La Salle who had its roots in the fast-paced game of Yamhill-Carlton, but they most recently have been leaning into the physical nature more associated with that championship Oregon Episcopal team.

Cascade Christian started strong, fueled by a defensive performance to be envied by anyone. The Knights started an abysmal 0-14 from 3-point range, largely due to Challenger pressure. Cascade was out-physicaling the physical team, keeping the game at their pace, and–in spots–dominating.

Going into half it looked as though–similar to their matchup with Yamhill-Carlton–they could blow it open with a few minutes of solid basketball. What followed, as happened in 2021, was quite the opposite. The Knights came out guns blazing, lighting it up from deep, as TJ Latu flexed his talents and brought the game back to a dead heat. Cascade Christian was giving into the pressure, allowing themselves to get caught up in the pace desired by De La Salle, and they began to suffer the consequences. 2021 seemed to be repeating itself.

Cody Reece, the lone senior on this roster, helped ground the Challengers in times of crisis all season–and this was to be no different. The Knight press began to wane in its effectiveness in the 4th, and Cascade Christian regained its control of the game on the back of the man absent from the 2021 title game–sophomore phenom Austin Maurer. History did not repeat itself–largely–because he was now involved.

Cascade snuffed out De La Salle’s attempts to reignite the fire-like pace, continuously denying the Knights opportunities at offensive rebounds that had been present in the first half, and they hit the free-throws they had missed down the stretch of their Oregon Episopal matchup in 2020.

The Challengers closed this game out on their terms, pulling away from a higher-ranked team at the free-throw line rather than playing catch-up or needing to win on a last second attempt. This was the conclusion to a three-year-long saga Cascade Christian–and Cody Reece specifically–deserved. 

Cascade Christian will be back–and be back stronger–in 2022. This might be the end of the story for Cody Reece and this title game trilogy, but the remainder of the main cast–the Maurer brothers, Tristan Wallace, and Brian Morse–will be back. 3A’s next dynasty is here.

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