NORTH BEND, Ore.– There was a sense of excitement entering the first game at the Elite 8 on the coast. It’s the goal, the plan ever since the season started back in November to get to this point as Nyssa and Salem Academy are as both tipped off in the opening round of the 3A Girls State Playoffs.
“It’s a really cool experince, (it’s) something we’ve been looking forward to all year. Just looking forward to bringing home some hardware,” said the Bulldogs Kierra Hernandez, who had eight points and three rebounds in the game.
“It’s really fun, it’s definitely surreal,” adds the Crusaders Krista Mulkey. “Like it’s our last year, it’s kind of sad. But it’s really good though.”
Coming out of the gate, the defense of the Bulldogs forced the Lady Crusaders into four early turnovers but Salem Academy returned the favor leading 14-5 after one and turned Nyssa’s turnovers into points as they turned the nine point lead into a 33-7 lead entering halftime.
Eva Hardy said that the pressure that Nyssa was throwing their way just fed their fire as they too picked up the intensity throughout the first half.
“I don’t know, I think the press really helps us because we get so fired up and we try our best and we really work hard with our press,” said Hardy who finished with three steals and nabbing a rebound in the game. “So that kind of scared them a little bit when we play super hard defense against them.”
The Bulldog defense slowed the Crusader offense to start the third quarter, holding Salem Academy to without a point in the opening four minutes until a Grace Brown free throw broke the scoreless drought as Nyssa broke into the double-digits by quarters end. But the Bulldogs couldn’t make a dent in the lead Salem Academy had in the 51-19 defeat Thursday afternoon at North Bend High School.
Nyssa, who finished sixth last season and fifth in 2014, are awaiting the loser of Clatskaine and Blanchet Catholic for their 9am Marshfield High School Tip and will put this game behind them as they get ready for their next game tomorrow morning.
“Just getting in the right mindset, the game’s over forget about it,” said Hernandez. “Just focus up on our next game tomorrow.”
Salior Hartley finished with four points, four steals and three rebounds in the loss for the Bulldogs.
As for Salem Academy, who will play the winner of the Clatskaine-BC game, the semi-final round has not been all too friendly to them in the last two years after this group of seniors saw the Title Game as freshman.
But, the mindset is different this year says Lindsey Larsen.
“I think just focusing on one game at a time,” she said. “In the past we just tried to focus on the championship game and by doing that we overlooked the semi-final game and we’ve came up short the past few years.
“So just taking it one game at a time and not being satisfied with third place this year.”
Larsen finished with two points and three steals in the win. Aimee Smith scored 20 points with seven rebounds while Sydney Brown scored 13 points. Kristen Koehnke had a team-high three assist with her four points.