By Jeremy McDonald
WEST SALEM, Ore.– There’s nothing like playing with nothing to lose. Those teams are the most dangerous in all of sports.
More so than the Top 3 Teams at any level, one wrong move and poof, there goes an opportunity of a higher seed or playoffs at all if you lose to them.
McKay Basketball played that Friday night, pushing the ante and pushed the 22nd-ranked West Salem Titans to the brink of defeat.
Yeah perhaps West won in overtime, 78-69 to end their season 12-12 overall and the Royal Scots still have one to go in their season, but the respect is there.
“We knew their going to give it all they’ve got and that’s what they did tonight,” said Johnson. “They put up a hard fought battle. Got to give a shoutout to McKay, they did a great job. We just came out with the win at the end.
“They’re a great team.”
The senior leadership of McKay led the way, Tristen Wilson, Demeris Bailey and Darrell Woods motivated their younger counterparts to roll with them in this one.
“We led a lot, I thought we led a lot,” said Woods. “I think when we led, the little guys followed us and we just led from there. That’s why the game was where it was because of our leadership.
“We just played hard, I thought we won in my eyes even though we lost. We set a tone for next year.”
And they followed and battled.
The rollercoaster of the game met its climax early in the second half, with the Titans up 10 following free throws on a technical foul before halftime, the Scots made their move.
The 15-4 rally by McKay was capped when Wilson hit an ‘And One’ to give his squad their first lead since the first quarter with 3:38 to play.
As the intensity progressed with West not wanting to lose to the Scots, both sides traded blows until the Titans found themselves up three with 75 seconds to play following a three-pointer by Jared Oliver.
Down to their final breath, it was a sophomore who stepped up to the plate and showed the seniors what he’s made of.
“I was hoping that’ll go in.” said Andre Tovar with a smile. “It was an amazing feeling, I’ve been working at it in practice so much, to improve my shot because I need to help the team with some points.”.
Tovar hit two crucial three’s that gave McKay a brief 66-63 lead with a half-minute to play in regulation.
Brief because Reilly Bertsch would tie things up with 25.9 seconds left in the game that sent the game into overtime when the Scots couldn’t land the decisive blow when the buzzer rang.
“We came out kind of flat and they came out ready to play and stepped on our throats a bit and got ahead,” said Johnson. “We just had to calm down and not make mistakes and after we did that, we got back into rhythm a bit.”
Both sides continued to trade blows in the overtime period, and Johnson’s two-for-two from the charity stripe gave a three-point advantage to the Titans.
However, following a Bailey misshot and an ensuring foul as two-for-two from Bertsch shocked the system of McKay as time expired.
For Garza and Woods, as they stepped off the court with West celebrating the win with their friends and family, they knew this one hurt.
“We just battled through it,” said Garza. “Our seniors stepped up, just helped us and when we got into overtime, it didn’t go our way. We kept battling, just trying to get the win.”
“It hurts a lot,” said Woods. “But it is what it is, we’ll learn from this one and keep moving on to the next one and just keeping pushing.”
As West looks to see how they stack up in the playoff brackets, the Scots will return home for senior night at McKay Tuesday night versus McNary.