By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– There’s no denying that Salem Academy has the offense and the defense to get them back to the Promise Land of Coos Bay and to the State Championship game. The talent is there, but the intensity is a work in progress.
Playing at a neutral site like Corban University against a team you know nothing about adds to the nerves, but the Lady Crusaders found a way like in all of those trips to Coos Bay and with the Arizona trip recently to overcome such anxiety.
Head Coach Ben Brown points to how each girl approach the game differently, either defensively, getting to the free throw line, whatever helps them calms their nerves it works.
And from the opening tip, the Salem Academy left no doubt versus Clatskaine about those nerves. Jumping out to a 26-9 lead as the defense brought the heat and the offense did as well.
Of those 26 points Aimee Smith had nine, Kirsten Koehnke scored six and Sydney Brown had another five points of the Crusaders 26 points and described the first quarter as they set the pace early against the Lady Tigers.
“I thought we did well on our press and our defensive intensity at the beginning was good,” said Koehnke who finished with 12 points in the win. “I think down the stretch that’s something we can improve on in later in the game, keeping it up and stuff.”
If you take out the first quarter, the next three quarters combined was close with Salem Academy holding a slight 36-33 advantage as Clatskaine shook off the nerves themselves with the long-ball and challenged the Lady Crusaders for the remainder of the game.
“They did great, the press did a good job, maybe we weren’t sealing the ball right up front, but we were getting the ball out of their main ball handlers hands and they were doing a good job of forcing turnovers behind our press,” said Brown on the intensity that his team produced Monday night at CU. “Getting back and getting steals. Aimee had a bunch of steals, but we had a bunch of assist which I like to see. We’re sharing the ball well. The girls just did great today, they came out and played hard.
“Clatskaine put up more points than I wanted them to, but they were hitting shots. So when your hitting three’s, they got them quick. The girls, I told them they had to lock down players like that and so we can prepare for other teams.”
Olivia Sprague (13) and Shelby Blodgett (17) were the two Tigers who scored in double-figures and had four of Clatskaine’s six three-pointers. Olivia Warren had the other two three-pointers.
As for the assist Brown touched on, Salem Academy had 11 of them. Smith and Koehnke both had team-high’s with three. The Brown sisters in Sydney and Grace both had two each and Eva Hardy had the other assist.
Hardy, with 10 points was one of four Lady Crusaders to score in double-figures. As for Smith, the senior guard was on fire. Besides scoring a team-high 15 points and three assist, Smith owned eight of the team’s 15 steals in the win as Salem Academy turns-and-burns back into PacWest Conference play versus Jefferson (12-4, 3-2 PacWest).
Photos By Jeremy McDonald