By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– Apparently, we got an early season treat of what a possibly playoff match-up maybe like here in a few short weeks with how this game played out.
Until a late rush by the Saxons in their what is expected to be the first of a-many high number of points they’ll be scoring this season with the fire power they have, South Salem recorded their first 80-burger of the season in their 82-73 win Tuesday night in front of their home crowd.
But damn, it wasn’t a cake-walk and certainly wasn’t easy. If anything, it felt like it was a game to get to the Chiles Center and not an early in the season battle between two 6A playoff-caliber squads on this day.
The Axe led 18-15 after one while the Saxons stormed back to take a 39-38 halftime lead into the locker room. Both teams battled, South Eugene took a 46-45 lead after a three only to see Treyden Harris hit one of his four threes’ in the game to hand South Salem a 48-46 lead about two minutes into the second half.
The energy was there, but they laid off the gas a little bit in the worst possible spots during the game and the Axe made them pay for it on the other side of the court.
At 55-48, South Eugene got it to 55-52 before Jacob Winstead sparked another up to help make it 62-54 that eventually was a 68-58 lead after Harris hit back-to-back threes to make it 68-58, but the Axe cut the lead back down to size at 68-66 with 5:38 left in the game.
“I mean we bounced back from it, we started moving the ball around. Started getting steals, started to get open shots when we needed them,” said Harris, who recorded a double-double with 23 points and 10 rebounds. “We would get those runs and we’ll be lazy and they’ll come back. We just got to have energy all the time.”
And with it being the first game of the season, they can improve from it because team’s like the Grant’s and the Jefferson’s out there will not hesitate to take advantage of those opportunities if South Salem present it to them.
“We always got to stay as a team, we can’t let a couple runs take us down and take us out of the game. We got to keep going, keep playing our pace of ball and we want to face those Jefferson’s and Grant’s and show what we can do,” said Trey Galbraith, who had 11 points in the game. “We just got to keep working hard in practice and I feel like it will come.”
A technical foul on the Axe’s six-foot-eight Aidan Clark changed the pace for the remainder of the game, the tech was his fifth-foul of the game and knocked out the big man out of the game.
That foul-out seemed as if zapped the energy out of South Eugene as Nielsen-Skinner drained one of the two free throws and one of his 37 points in the game for the Saxons and South Salem finished the game on a 14-7 advantage after Clark exited the game to wrap up the first game of the season for the host squad.
With the Shamrock Slam this weekend, Tuesday’s game will give them momentum with how their offense is looking, but know they need to sharpen a few things against the host-Sheldon and South Medford on the defensive front to make sure their offense can work as effectively as it possible can.
“We just need to work on our defense and our communication on help side, I feel like there was a lot of extra plays we had with charges and loose balls that we didn’t get and against those top team’s we’re going to have to get those if we want to win those games,” said Galbraith. “But getting into practice and I feel like we’ll be ready for this weekend.”
The Saxons and Irish tip it off Friday at 7pm.