By Jeremy McDonald
COOS BAY, Ore.– The rivalry game is set for Friday afternoon. Salem Academy Girls, Blanchet Catholic.
A win will put you in the 3A OSAA State Title Game.
But how did we get here?
The Lady Crusaders overcame a slow start against a defensive Lakeview team for a 43-18 behind 10 points from Sydney Brown, 16 from Aimee Smith as they fought through the rollercoaster of finding gaps in the Lady Honkers defense Thursday afternoon at Marshfield High School.
“We knew that they will athletic and strong, they have good size,” said Crusader Head coach Ben Brown. “They’re quick, they’re set on defense just as our success is on defense. Obviously (Alex Conley) we knew she was probably the best athlete on the floor, so trying to make ourselves discipline that we don’t skip a pass over on her side.
“So we had enough information on them that I was confident that if we just played halfway decent, we’ll be able to get through. But yeah, we struggled early but you noticed that we shook it off faster than they did and that pays dividends in here.”
Conley proved to be a havoc on the Salem Academy offense and defense with eight points, 10 rebounds with two blocks and two steals on the game, but Brown points to the fact that them being there for before as they stretched out the Lakeview defense in the final quarters to pull away.
For the Lady Cavaliers, it looked as if it would’ve been more of the same with them building a 14-7 lead early before the Lady Cats of Portland Adventist Academy roared to life to take a 39-32 lead with a half of a fourth-quarter to go in the game and Ana Coronado fouling out following her last basket to cut it to 39-34 with 3:02 left in the game.
Blanchet wouldn’t be denied as Sophia Poole and Emily Collier filled the void left by Coronado as behind their leadership and willpower, the Cavs jumped back into the game as both Blanchet Lady Ballers as they made some crucial shots down the shots in Free Throws to propel the Cavs into the Semi-Final round.
“It was very important, we just have to keep our cool, stay calm,” said Collier. “We knew we had it.”
Brown knew the option was there to be facing Blanchet once more, for the fourth-time this season, with Coronado, Poole and company warming up following his game with the fire power they have.
And he drew similarities with Conley and Kenize Johnston, along with Dayton’s Shawnie Spinks and Kalina Rojas to the two-headed monster with Blanchet.
“Like when we played Dayton, Shawnie Spinks is going to get hers what do you do with Kalina?,” said Brown. “Same with Kalina, if she’s going to get hers, well did you shut down Shawnie? You just can’t let both girls go off
“And it’ll be the same with Blanchet, Sophia, Ana. The Hittner girl can hit it down, great defender. They have a bunch of good role players.”
As for the Cavaliers? They’re excited and ready for the opportunity to knock off their rival to go to the State Championship game.
“I think we can definitely jump the gun on them, like come out and play really strong because I know our whole entire team is really excited to play them,” said Poole.
This would be the second time that these two schools will meet up in a State Championship Semi-Final Game this school year as the two squads met in the Football Semi-Final Round game in November.
Salem Academy won that game that day, but can the Lady Crusaders duplicate that result or can Blanchet break even and go to the Title Game?
We’ll see come 1:30pm Friday afternoon at Marshfield High School.
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Photos By Jeremy McDonald