By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– West Salem and McKay were battling for the lead during the first half in Tuesday’s Greater Valley Conference match-up at McKay High School.
In the second half however, it came down to the Titans capitalizing on the Royal Scots mistakes for a 87-61 victory.
“In the first half we came out kind of scared, timid a little bit,” said Hunter Johnson, who had a game-high 17 points for the West Salem Titans. “We weren’t running the plays, getting back on (defense).
“Second half, we turned it around. Got back on D, ran our plays (and) settled down, just gave us more points and more defensive stops. That’s what we did in the second half.”
For McKay Head Coach Dean Sanderson, it was not the result him and his team were looking for after two hard practices leading up to the game.
“We were making strides, then today, we didn’t play like we practiced,” said Sanderson. “That’s what your looking for is that carry over from practice to the game.
“I thought we saw times then when things weren’t going well all of a sudden we thought we weren’t going to win, and that’s what you saw in kids faces and the mentality changed in our athletes.”
After a strong first quarter and a half that saw both teams within two possessions of another, West Salem closed out the first half with a 7-3 run to build a 38-31 lead entering the half.
“It’s very tough,” said Johnson on playing the Scots press. “They’re loud, they’re energetic. They fly around They don’t care, they’re just out there getting the ball, it’s just tough. They swarm a lot.”
That momentum continued into the second half as they lead grew to 12 before a 25-13 fourth quarter sealed the victory for the Titans.
“It’s tough,” said Tristen Wilson, who had a team high 14 rebounds for the McKay Scots. “Tough to score. Tough to do anything. We weren’t expecting that, but they gave it to us and we couldn’t handle it.”
For Johnson and West Salem (4-9, 3-2 GVC), they got the McNary Celtics next on Tuesday, a front-runner in the GVC this season along with South Salem; and Johnson knows they’ll approach it one game at a time.
“We’re going to take it one game at a time,” he said. “This is a good kind of game, a wake-up call in the first half, come out and play in the second game.
“I think we got McNary next and their a really good team, probably one of the best in the GVC. So we got to work hard and prepare for them.”
For Wilson and McKay (4-8, 1-3 GVC), it’s back to practice for McMinnville Tuesday at home.
“Just working hard in practice, its all we can do,” said Wilson. “We grind every week, hoping for results next week. So we’ll keep grinding.”
SCORE BY QUARTER 1 2 3 4 — T
TITAN 14 24 22 27 — 87
SCOTS 10 21 15 13 — 61
TOP 3 SCORERS: MCKAY: Wilson, T 14. Woods, D 10. Bailey, D 8. WEST SALEM: Johnson, H 17. Oliver, J.14. Bertsch, R 13.
TURNOVERS: MCKAY: 18 WEST SALEM: 16.
Jeremy McDonald is a professional sports journalist in the Salem/Portland area and is a member of the Society of Professional Journalist in Oregon with B.S. degrees from Southern Oregon University in Journalism (2011) and Health/PE (2013). Got a story idea? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @J_McDonald81!