By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– Two programs. One friendship. McKay and North Salem.
For the seniors on each side, it was the last time they’ll play each other in their prep careers.
Of the 13 seniors combined on both rosters, The Vikings Jayden Meade, JD Drioji and Paul Gideon and the Scots Ryan Bangs, Khyler Beach and Andre Tovar to name some of the five seniors on have actually played against each other since before the high school days with Skyball and the like.
“I mean, it’s a pretty unique situation playing against those guys, they’re a really good team, special group of players,” said Drioji, who had five points in his last game versus McKay. “I feel like we should have gotten that win, but it was fun playing them from Skyball until right now.” 40
“I think it’s cool,” said Bangs who added eight points in Friday’s game. “I think…I don’t know about friends but we’re cool with each other, we’ve known each other for so long. It’s someone you know who can talk to after the game, you can give them a handshake. I don’t know, it’s kind of sad that we’re playing them.”
The schools, a few miles apart, many who went to Parrish Middle School, Waldo Middle School or Stephens Middle School that feed into these two High Schools in the area.
Over the last four years, yes they’ve been struggles with both programs. Both with a combined one playoff appearance with McKay in the play-in game versus Madison last season, perhaps two by season’s end with the Scots on the bubble for another play-in game appearance.
Both sides have pride in their programs, North Salem as seen development since the arrival of Cameron McCormick last season as the Vikings find themselves competitive in several games this season and nearly snapping a 42-game Greater Valley Conference losing streak against West Albany Tuesday night.
That game, the Vikings barely fell to the Bulldogs off a last-second free throw that sealed the 61-60 victory after North Salem held a 10-point lead entering the final eight minutes.
For these seniors in the Black and Red, seeing the growth of the program during the past few years is something that is exciting to see for their younger teammates coming up through the ranks.
“I see where we’re improving from the mentality that we’re having. Like we’re starting to realize that we’re a team that we can stick it out and play tough, every single second of the game,” said Meade, who had four points in the game. “And what I hopefully can leave is someone to look up to. I can score, I can rebound and these guys are just people, they’re our opponents but we can play.”
With McKay, their seniors have seen some success going 21-24 in their last 45 games including Friday’s 89-45 victory over the Vikings after seeing their Varsity squad win 11 games during their first two years in the program and hope that their mark on the program for the younger players coming up through the McKay ranks in the coming years.
“No matter who your facing, number one Sprague or who ever your facing, play with effort. Always play with effort, if you always play with effort you’ll never be out of a game. If you don’t play with that, then there’s no point playing at all because that’s the key in the success that we’ll have all time,” starts Tovar who had 18 points, two behind Israel Garza’s team-high 20 points.
And as the team’s go their separate ways for the night, for the last time as opponents on the hardwood, they’ll won’t forget the fun that they had playing against each other through the years.
“It was definitely emotional, especially seeing how much they’ve improved and how much we’ve improved and definitely seeing the competitiveness that we have for each other. You see it on the court,” said Meade. “And after the game, in the handshake (line). It’s the last handshake, it made you felt like your heart just sank because you played each other for so long, you don’t know what to do now.
“I’m glad they got the ‘W’ because they deserved it, they worked hard.”
Tovar reflected it as just having a fun time playing with people that they’ve grown up around for the majority of their lives and the environment that these games bring to it.
“I mean coming from my childhood, I’ve known most of these guys since growing up and I think it’s really fun time to play them and seeing the environment,” Tovar said. “Each school bringing their student section, they’re really loud.”
McKay’s Khyler Beach had 13 and Taran Trumbly added another 12 points. North’s Zach Sullivan connected on three three-pointers for nine points and Braden Vasquez added another 10 for the Vikings.
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Photos By Jeremy McDonald