By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– The scoreboard said one thing, but the court said something else.
For being the fifth-best team in the OSAA 6A division and tops in the Greater Valley Conference, the South Salem Saxons looked exhausted by the fourth quarter with the inspired and aggressive play by the McKay Men’s basketball team.
But South found away to squeezed out a 92-78 victory over a Royal Scots squad that played one of their best games of the year.
“The effort was 32 minutes tonight,” said McKay Scots Head Coach Dean Sanderson. “If that’s what we’re going to do, then we’ll give ourselves a chance. I told the guys, if the talent was even here, we’ll win the game by 20 points.
“We outplayed them, we outworked them, we out executed them. They just out-talented us tonight.”
From the get-go, McKay came out swinging with aggressiveness. There was a sense that if they can keep this up, this game will be special as they led 6-5 early in the first quarter.
They forced the Saxons to commit six first quarter fouls, two by Christian Russell South Salem’s six-foot-eleven post player during that span.
“We attacked and got (Russell) into foul trouble and (it) help us out,” said Sanderson. “Just be aggressive and get back the shot they block.”
Despite not having Russell for much of the reminder of the first half, the Saxons didn’t want such things to happen as they quickly responded, building a 15 point lead by midway through the second quarter.
The Scots Dean Sanderson challenged his team in practice to respond, to play the full 32 minutes with 7-on-5 drills to simulate the conditions versus South Salem Saxon-style of play.
It worked as a charge led by Josiah Castillo and Shaton Daniels got the lead to eight before turnovers allowed South to take a 51-35 lead by halftime.
“The kind of practices we had were physical,” said Wilson on the lead-up to the game. “Kind of to the point to where we can get ready for these guys with how physical it was, how taller they were to us (and) it got us ready for today.”
When the third quarter started, where most of the problems occurred in first meeting for McKay, there were no lay-off for the Scots.
The aggressiveness and inspiration was still there in the third period.
What result was an incident between Russell and Wilson going up for the ball that saw Russell being knocked down in the scuffle to the ball.
“He’s 6’11, I’m 6’4 and I thought I had to front him and I had to do what I had to do to help us get an advantage on them,” described Wilson on his aggressiveness. “Our backside help was so great during the game but we had to do what we had to do to keep them out of the paint.”
The fight continued following Wilson’s departure to the bench following the throw down as the other seniors, Darrell Woods, Demeris Bailey and Izaya Coronado, looked to lead by example for the younger guys for when they face the Saxons again in the 2016-2017 season.
“I think this game is a good example of what McKay Basketball should be,” said Bailey. “So I think the young guys’ll learn from that and continue that.”
Where the lead grew to 30 during their first meeting, the lead didn’t surpassed a hard fought 22 in favor of South. Behind the ‘Lift As You Climb’ mantra for McKay, they cut it down to 14 before the final whistle.
“That’s what McKay basketball been about, we always compete and we always battle,” said Sanderson. “I think our kids got up tonight because they didn’t want to get embarrassed and they didn’t. They battled back and South Salem had to battle to win this one.”
Was it the best game of the year for the Royal Scots? Perhaps.
McKay will not have another game until February 5 when rival-North Salem make the three-mile voyage to the home of the Scots.
SCORE LINE 1 2 3 4 — T
SCOTS 12 23 18 25 – 78
SAXONS 20 31 18 23 92
MCKAY: Woods, D 17. Castillo, J. 16. Daniels, S. 14. Garza, I. 8. Wilson, T. 8. Coroando, I 7. Beach, K. 3. Tavera, N. 3. Bailey, D. 2
SOUTH: Thomas, K. 21. Wadleigh, T. 18. Russell, C. 14. Nielsen Skinner, J. 13. Baughman, G. 12 Matthews, G 10.
3-Points. MCKAY- 8 (Castillo 4). SOUTH- 4 (Matthews 2)
.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!