By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– Entering the second-half of Thursday’s double-header, it seemed as if South Salem was going to continue their dominance on McKay up 42-26 entering the third quarter.
The Saxons opened the game up 21-9 entering the second quarter and squeaked by the Scots 21-17 in the second quarter was thanks to strong play offensively and a defensive front that challenged McKay into contested shots.
“That first half we played like what we wanted to play,” said Ryan Brown, who scored five of his 14 points in the first half. “It was fun, we played hard and we played with heart and then we came out in the second half we came out dead because we were up but we played the scoreboard and McKay, they’re fighters, all they do is fight.”
Jaden Nielsen-Skinner had 10 of his 19 in the first half, Tyler Wadleigh had eight of his 11 points in the opening 16 minutes while Trey Galbraith had all eight of his points in the first half.
Coming out, as Brown eluded to, the Saxons seemed as if they were backing off from what gave them the lead and challenged the Scots to snap out of their cold snap offensively.
Surely, unlike what happened in their first meeting, McKay found their groove.
“Coming out of the half, we knew we weren’t going to try to let the same thing happened in the first game happen again so we came out harder like we should in the first half,” said the Scots Khyler Beach.
Within the first 10 minutes of the second half, by the six minute mark of the fourth quarter following Israel Garza’s lay-in and remembering that 101-60 defeat earlier this season; that 16-point deficit was cut to two and moments later to 56-55 when Beach went 1-for-2 from the charity stripe. A 29-14 swing to get back into the game.
Nielsen-Skinner’s free throws pushed it to 58-55 with 4:09 left with Drioji Joel cut it to one-again. It wasn’t for Beach again at the 1:51 that gave the Scots a 61-60 lead off a pair of free-throws.
With the game needing a difference-making play, it came way of Brown as the six-three junior takes a mis-shot by Galbraith and threw it down to not just give the Saxons the lead but gave the crowd something to raise to their feet that much more as Nielsen-Skinner met his wing player at the free-throw line as timeout was called to celebrate.
“It was more of a momentum shift for us, we were kind of down and that brought all of our energy up so it helped us a lot,” said Brown as the junior pushed the lead to 64-61 with 1:13 left in the ball-game.
McKay looking to force overtime if not the win as well with some time left on the clock with a three and a quick stand, but Wadleigh made the front-end of a pair to all but ice the win as Beach drained a three at the buzzer in hopes for a four-point play.
“It was frustrating,” said Beach. “In the second-half we played like how we knew how we could play. But we just dug ourselves into a too-deep of a hole in the first-half and it kind of put ourselves out of it.”
And as they head into the play-in round Saturday,
“Just go back knowing how we can play because when we played Sprague and McNary, we competed with them the whole game,” said Beach. “We beat Sprague but fall to McNary, but we know we could play with any team.”
With South, there’s no doubt that Head Coach Tyler Allen and his coaching staff won’t let them forget about the comeback that McKay had on them as they have a few days now to prepare for the opening round of the postseason on Wednesday.
“Definitely our coaches are going to work us in tomorrow,” said Brown. “We talked about being lackadaisical after the game, so they’re going to come out and give it to us on Friday and Monday and Tuesday. So we better come to play on Wednesday, we really don’t have a choice, it’s win-or-go-home. We have to play like it’s our last game ever.”
Photos By Jeremy McDonald