By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– While West Salem, West Albany and Sprague all won decisively in their Greater Valley Conference games by at least 20 points, the game at South Salem was a whole different story.
South Salem’s Tyler Wadleigh forced overtime with free throws in the wanning seconds of regulation to force overtime tied at 53 apiece.
Both teams traded baskets during the first overtime period, and for much of the latter part of the final two minutes of the four-minute quarter involved the Celtics milking the clock looking for the game-winning dagger, but McNary couldn’t land the dagger as both teams re-entered the battlefield for double overtime.
“You definitely get tired, your for sure tired your drained,” said Saxon’s Jaden Nielsen-Skinner. “Your body’s super tired, but that’s what we worked all day in practice for when we have to come into games like that when we get into overtime and have to push through it, battle through it.”
“We just had to work as a team, all the seniors helped me out a lot even though I’m only just a sophomore and all those seniors helped me out a lot getting used to the offense,” adds Celtics Junior Walling. “We all played good defense, Andrew Jones, Chandler Cavell stepping up making big plays.”
Walling hit one-of-two three throws to help put McNary up three before Alfredo Villarreal extended that lead to 64-59 in favor of Big Blue.
But when you play against South, you must remember to account for Wadleigh and the Man Known As Skinny as Nielsen-Skinner scored all five of the Saxon points in the second overtime period with a pair of Free Throws and a three-pointer to tie it at 64 as fatigued was in full force for both teams.
Neither would concede to the other however as they thrive off the atmosphere they were in with the crowd into it.
“We love it, we come out and battled no matter how long we have to play,” said South Salem’s Trey Galbraith. “We just want to win no matter what it takes. We’ll battle through injuries and illness’ whatever it is, we’re going to come out here and win every single game, it doesn’t matter.”
McNary took the inbound pass shortly after Nielsen-Skinner’s trey shot and brought it up court, both sides cheering. Celts looking to continue their roll, number five in State; the Saxons, trying to climb that league mountain facing them on defense.
Both faced in McNary’s side of the court where eventually Cavell drove to the hole and was fouled by Nielsen-Skinner, South’s bench and their fans cried foul while the Celtics cheered as Cavell walked to the line for two all-important free throws.
“Honestly I was at peace kinda, I figured in the beginning of the year if I got one in the OT I was going to be pissing my pants but I got there and I took a deep breath and I felt good,” said Cavell as he stepped to the line as he finished with 20 points in the game.
He goes one-for-two to hand McNary a 65-64 lead with under ten seconds to play.
South takes the inbound, goes up to their side of mid-court and called for a timeout with five seconds remaining in the game as it came down to one last stand. A free throw could possibly send it to triple-overtime, a mid-range jumper or lay-in could win it for the Saxons while a defensive stand would all but seal the win for the Celts.
With fouls to give, McNary used them all as South Salem tried to go to Nieslen-Skinner. With about two seconds left in the game, the Celtics laid-off the fouling and challenged Nieslen-Skinner to beat them as he got the inbound pass again.
He takes a step or two before releasing as time-expired…falls short of it’s mark as McNary charges the court and meets their fanbase at mid-court.
“Oh man there’s nothing better, there’s nothing better than coming out on top of a double-OT game,” said Cavell as the McNary Celtics win their seventh-straight game. “Haven’t won here in what? Three years? It feels good.”
The Celts last win at South Salem was all the way back on January 6, 2015 when the beat the Saxons 67-62.
For South Salem, who were coming off their first 100-point offensive output in a few years, the defeat burns yes; but the fact they pushed the number five team in 6A to double-overtime is something to rest their hats on.
“Honestly there’s nothing to bounce-back for, they’re fifth in State. They weren’t suppose to beat us by one, they’re suppose to beat us by 20,” said Nielsen-Skinner who too finished with 20 points in the defeat.
“But we’re the standard, they celebrated like they won the Natty but next time, just watch. Just watch, next time,” Nielsen-Skinner said with a smile.
These two won’t meet again until February 13 at McNary, in the meantime however, the Saxons are off to West Albany Friday while McNary is off to North Salem Friday night.