By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.— Coming out for the second half, the North Salem Boys Basketball team came out inspired and firing after a slow start to the first half that had them on the wrong side of the rebounding game, turnover battle and the scoreboard.
During the third quarter, they picked up the pace on the boards and were conscious on their turnovers down double-figures. Soon enough, their patience and hard work slowly paid off.
That double-digit deficit slowly turned into a one-point lead entering the fourth quarter as they led 36-35 and momentum on their side with their inspired and fast-pace movement that had the Wolverines on their toes.
“We had energy, but we just, we kind of died down after a while but we came out hot with the fire under our butts,” said Alex Vasquez. “We just had to keep it like we didn’t do.”
What happened was Willamette capitalized on a few miscues that not just slowed the Vikings mojo down, it halted it. With a 15-2 advantage to deny a re-surging North team a chance to win on home court for the first time since February of 2015.
You could tell there’s frustration in the air with the Viks as they walked off the court, especially with that of senior Hunter Sullivan.
“It sucks know that the biggest thing is that we’re there and we’re five minutes away from winning it. That happened in I don’t know how many games this season, especially when you can’t close them out,” said Sullivan. “And I think that has to do with practices and that’s not with the coaches, it’s on players.
“We have to take it more seriously. We have guys laughing in the locker room where after a loss like that , it just bugs me because we’re four minutes away from one here and four minutes from one here. If we put a full 32 minutes together, we’re a tough team but we seem to not do that. And that’s what we’re looking for.”
This isn’t the first game they’ve been close in. Their victory over Dallas, a late rally over Eagle Point, the first three-plus quarters versus St. Helens and McKay; all close at one point during the course of the game or at the end.
Though frustrated, this team knows that they are just paying their dues, waiting for that one complete game, or even a string of them, to propel them into the right direction.
The direction they want to be.
Sullivan draws the comparison to last year’s squad to this year’s squad.
“It big, because look at last year,” starts Sullivan. “Look at the games that we were ok in. It was normal to lose by 35 (points), to lose by 40 and it was, ‘oh, how much can we lose by this game?’ and it ended up being the mindset.
“This game, we have the full potential to be in every game and that’s the big factor. When we can see that we can stay close to a McNary or a McKay…it’s a big deal cause we see it the potential.”
Vasquez adds that these close games, being able to battle and battle hard; adds a sense of confidence for the team in knowing that they’ll be able to compete with the Sprague’s, the South Salem’s of the Greater Valley Conference if they play they’ve been playing these last few games.
“It helps a lot,” said Vasquez. “We just need to string full, effort throughout the whole game; but these close games will help us against teams like Sprague and South (Salem). It gets us ready for those. I think when we get ready for those top dogs in our conference; I think we’ll be able to battle with them.”
Head Coach Cameron McCormick adds, and it speaks volumes on the progress of this ever-growing team is progressing as they now are beginning to see how putting together a complete game effort looks like as they prepare for the three-day Century/Hillsboro Tournament on Wednesday.
“I think it’s good for them to see how close we are to putting together all four quarters and how valuable each quarter is,,” said Head Coach Cameron McCormick. “because if we get beat in a quarter then it resulted in a single-digit loss, when now we’re seeing how valuable each, and every, quarter and four-minute segment is.”
JV- Willamette won. Freshman- North Salem won 50-29
Follow Jeremy McDonald on Twitter at @J_McDonald81 or like jmcdonaldmedia on Facebook!