The Character Of A Team Entering Day 3: SA Advances To Title Game, BC To 3rd

By Jeremy McDonald

jeremymcdonald73@gmail.com

COOS BAY, Ore.–  The game on March 1, 2017, it was dang near rememberable for Blanchet and dang near forgettable for Salem Academy as the Lady Cavs handed the Lady Crusaders their second straight Championship Semi-final loss.

Entering their match-up Friday afternoon though, Salem Academy certinaly remembered their recent losses in the semi-final round as they pressed into a 29-12 lead.
“I think what was key to us was our intensity and just helping our teammates out and just set up our offense and focus up,” said Kristen Koehnke who had seven points and two rebounds.
During halftime, Gabe Cuanas and a few of the Crusaders student section joined in the halftime fun as Cuanas won the knocking down of the soda bottles game.
“Just taking your time and not letting the ball get too out of control because once it does, you can’t control where it’s swinging.  You know, keep a nice steady pace,” said Cuanas. “It’s pretty easy, I have a lot of practice back there (pointing to the back room where they briefly practice)  This wasn’t my first rodeo.”
Just don’t open those sodas too fast now Gabe! Haha.
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Gabe Cuanas celebrating his winnings (Picture By Jeremy McDonald)

Salem Academy though coming out of the halftime break laid off their press and Blanchet began to chip away at the 29-12 lead as Bailey Hittner drained a three with 3:38 remaining to make it a 33-23 game in the third quarter.

“I don’t know, we dug ourselves a hole in the first half but our coach just kind of said that ‘it’s now or never’,” said Hittner who had five points “We’ve came back from leads like that before so we just had to set our minds to it and started hitting shots.”28
But the Crusaders would recontrol their focus with Head Coach Ben Brown yelling, “patience, patience” as Grace Brown drains a three with 4:40 left to put Salem Academy up 44-26 with the student section chatting “Salem, Salem” on occasion with the Crusaders taking the game 48-35 to finally get back to the title game for the first time since 2015.
Lindsey Larsen, who was on the bench as a freshman that year, describes the feeling going back to the State Game as awesome though it hasn’t fully sank in yet.
“It just feels great you know, we’ve just came out short the past few years and it hasn’t really sank in for a lot of us that we’re going back to the State Championship game, but it feels awesome,” said Larsen who had two points in the win.
For Koehnke, who was on Regis’ sixth-place team last year, the feeling of being in the Big Show now is something awesome.
“We’re excited, we’re pumped,” said Koehnke as her and her team will play at 7pm Saturday night.
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Bailey Hittner looking on during the game (picture By Jeremy McDonald)
Now, for the athlete’s for both teams, it’s just a matter of living in the moment and enjoying the day Saturday regardless of the result.
That third day brings out the character in teams, everyone’s dog tired and exhausted from playing to just get to Saturday.  It doesn’t matter if it’s for third-fifth like Blanchet or first-second as Salem Academy is.
“Some teams really showed their character coming out in the third-place and fifth-place game and not giving it their all because they lost.  But I think we have the mindset of another day and we’re going to play our hardest,” starts Hittner.
“I think we have strong character and that’s going to come through.  We’ve had a lot of adversity in the past and we fought  through it so I hope it’s going to be a good game tomorrow.  I have confidence.”
For Larsen, one of the eight seniors on the team, Saturday night marks the end of their prep career as they lace it up against the winner of Dayton-Rainier.
“We’re just going to come out hard and for a lot of these girls it’s going to be their last time going on the court, so just giving it our all,” said Larsen.  “I’m just going to take it every minute and I am going to cheer on my team whether I’m on the court or on the bench.”
As for the rest of the day, as the Columbians and Pirates set sail on their game, they’ll just wait and see what awaits.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald
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