By Debbie Raney
The Crane Mustangs earned the right to advance to the 1A state basketball tournament in Baker City this week, by coming out victorious in both round-one and round-two play-in games. Crane defeated Southwest Christian at home, and then beat Imbler on the road, placing them into the final eight that will compete this week.
The Mustangs will play Horizon Christian at 3:15 p.m. Thursday in the quarterfinals. Other matchups set for Thursday are Mohawk versus North Clackamas Christian, Triangle Lake versus Country Christian, and Spray versus Columbia Christian.
Cranes’ 77-66 win over Imbler on Saturday carried a message — a team can’t count their opponents out until the final buzzer.
The Mustangs took a quick lead in the opening minutes with Matt Stevens and Dallen Davies turning steals into points. Good defensive position under the boards by Baxter Davies, Royal Henricks and Jordan Conaway kept Imber from getting put-backs, and at the end of one, Crane had a 27-6 lead.
The Mustangs’ 22-point advantage held all the way through the second quarter, as B. Davies shot inside and D. Davies nailed two 3-pointers. At halftime, Crane was up 44-22.
The third quarter could have been the end of the Mustangs’ season. In the first four minutes, Imblers’ full-court press created five turnovers. Every one of those turnovers were taken to the net, and the Panthers were only 12 points down. When Crane finally began to get through the press, the teams ran even, and at the end of three, the score had the Mustangs leading 57-41.
When Imbler began to hit 3-pointers from both sides of the perimeter during the fourth quarter, the Panthers pulled to within eight points. Then, Conaway let everyone know that 3-point shots could drop on both ends of the court. During the final quarter, he made 14 points, and Crane stepped into the top eight 1A teams in the state.
Crane had three players not only hit double-digits, but make 20 or more points. D. Davies made 23, including four 3-pointers; B. Davies scored 22; and Conaway made 20. Rounding out the Mustang scoring was R. Henricks with six, Stevens with four and C. Henricks hitting two.
The Mustangs’ opponent in the first game in this week’s tournament, Horizon Christian, is the number-one team out of the Big Sky League. They defeated Days Creek on Saturday to earn advancement to Baker City. Overall for the year, the Hawks are undefeated with a 26-0 record.
CRA 27 17 13 20 77
IMB 6 16 19 25 66
Last Wednesday, the Mustangs defeated the Southwest Christian Wildcats, 58-41.
Crane jumped ahead in the first quarter, with Jordan Conaway downing a three to start the scoring. Royal Henricks blocked two Wildcat shots, and the Mustangs were ahead 11-6, midway through the first quarter.
The Wildcats began to penetrate Crane’s defense, getting inside for three shots, and then hitting two 3-pointers, and at the top of the second, the Mustangs trailed 16-15.
Cranes’ defense began to get in front of Southwest Christian during the second period, stopping their quick inside moves. The stepped up coverage held the Wildcats to only one basket from the field and two free throws before halftime. Offensively, Dallen Davies connected for two 3-pointer shots, and Baxter Davies got inside for three buckets in the paint. Going into the locker room, Crane was up 33-20.
It took three minutes before either team made a shot in the third quarter — at the five minute mark, B. Davies found the net. During the third, B. Davies was the only Mustang to score. The Wildcats made seven straight at the end of the quarter, to pull the score to a 10-point difference, 39-29.
Conaway was called for his fifth foul in the open minute of the fourth. With the two free throws, Southwest Christian pulled to within eight points. R. Henricks was fouled on the ensuing trip down the floor, making the shot and the free throw that followed. After B. Davies made a jumper, the Wildcats scored on back-to-back possessions, getting to within nine points of Crane again, with four and one-half minutes in the game. The Mustangs then went on an eight-point run to pull to an unreachable lead.
The win over the Wildcats sent Crane to a round-two matchup with the Imbler Panthers on Saturday.
B. Davies was the Mustangs top scorer against Southwest Christian, hitting for 21 points. D. Davies made 17, Conaway scored nine, R. Henricks put in seven, Matt Stevens made two points and Cody Henricks and Pete Joyce scored one point each.
CRA 15 18 6 19 58
SWC 16 4 9 12 41