By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– It’s somewhat surprising to be expecting the epic rematch between the Salem Academy Girls and the Dayton Lady Pirates to happen so soon after the Lady Crusaders win in Dayton on December 16 in Dayton; but hey, the Basketball Gods granted us the rematch during the basketball regular season when the two team’s met in the Sliver Bracket Championship Game Saturday Night at Salem Academy.
Entering the game, the Lady Pirates were down Kalina Rojas due to an ankle injury suffered during Friday’s game versus Nyssa, so they were without one of their big post girls for the rematch.
However, unlike the first matchup where both team’s shot relatively well, Saturday’s matchup was quite the opposite as it was 6-5 after the first quarter and 15-13 at halftime with Salem Academy shooting 23.8-percent and Dayton shot 16.7-percent from the field. Down from 36.8-percent for the Crusaders and 22.2-percent from the team’s first half of December 16’s game.
Both team’s saw a slight improvement in offensive efficiency during the second half with Dayton building a 25-20 lead in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter before Sydney Brown converted three-of-four from the free throw-line and Aimee Smith drained a three to put Salem Academy up 26-25.
Brown had 19 points and 12 rebounds in the game and Smith had six points and four rebounds in the rivalry game.
Shawnie Spink however would put Dayton back up two with a three pointer with 2:10 remaining as the senior guard had 12 points and 12 rebounds in the game, eventually the Pirates led 32-28 with under a minute to go.
But, Brown and the Crusaders weren’t going to give-up their tournament title so easily as Brown put-back a rebound to cut it to two then Smith striped the ball out of the hands of Malina Ray as Brown laid it in while being fouled. Brown converted the free throw to give Salem Academy a brief 33-32 lead with about 20 seconds remaining.
Brief because as the Pirates in-bounded the ball to Spink and everyone crowded her, Spink heaved it down court to Junior Hailey Myers who took advantage of Kara Standridge creeping up to help to get control of the ball and used a pump-fake to get the five-foot-ten senior to jump and gave the five-foot-one junior a window to lay it in for the go-ahead score.
“Oh it was crazy, I honestly thought she was going to foul me. That pump-fake was what probably what won the game and Shawnie’s pass, that was a great pass,” said Myers on the shot.
Ben Brown called for time and designed a play for his girls to run and after rotating it around, Smith launched a three-pointer that barely missed it’s mark with six seconds remaining. As Brown came down with the rebound and turned to be met by Chole Cisneros, Jaden Moore got a hand on the ball as Brown was beginning to go up to shoot and jarring the ball loose.
And out of natural reaction of going after a loose ball, Brown reached out to grab it before it went out. She touched it, but it went out of bounds as she tried to pull it back in-bounds with a second remaining.
“They kept fighting hard and we had our chance, we lost a girl on that press break, we were trying to deny Shawnie the ball,” said Ben Brown. “And we had a girl sneak out on us so just a blown assignment led to their one-point lead.
“We had a good play drawn up at the end, we took a shot we didn’t need to take right then. Got the rebound, tried to put it back up. Just ran out of time, ball goes out of bounds.”
Salem Academy tried to pressure the Lady Pirates into a sideline infraction to get the ball back, but to no avail as Dayton in-bounded it and sealed the win to close out the preseason for both teams.
The win was huge for Dayton as they played without Rojas, who’s foot was in a boot Saturday night as she heals up from the injury and was a great motivator for them entering league.
“It’s a big game for us, we didn’t have Kalina and usually Kalina is the one who holds us together, so that win for us was big,” said Myers as the Lady Pirates face Taft at home on Friday to open West Valley League play. “We have four days of practice coming up, we can continue to work hard and work on our defense because defense wins Championships.”
For the Crusaders, with the bitter taste that Dayton had a few weeks ago and knowing as the Pirates do that it was going to go on a winning streak against the other, has Blanchet Catholic Wednesday to open PacWest Conference-play.
“We’re only going to have one practice which will be tough, but the girls, there just going to have to figure out how to come to play. We won’t have to hype it up it’s Blanchet, we know we have to play hard, they’re a good team. They’ve had some good games and bad games missing some girls, but they’re still the defending Champions and we’re just going to have to lace them up and play them hard.”
Perhaps, come Coos Bay time in a few months, these two teams will meet again for the Trilogy/Rubber Match game of this season and perhaps that perfect sunset to their high school seasons and high school careers for these two great group of seniors from both teams that started in that faithful March 7, 2015 night battling it out for the State Title as freshman.