By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– The first half ended with a blaze of glory.
Western Christian went on a 6-0 run to cut the Santiam lead from 15-8 to 15-14 late in the second quarter with Annika Hess on the bench with three fouls to her name. But with their backs against the wall the Wolverines settled in and pushed their lead back to five by the halftime break at 19-14.
Hess wasn’t the only one in foul trouble as two other Pioneers missed a good amount of the second quarter with foul trouble as Western Christian had to play players out of position. One of them was Sydney Fahndrich, who saw significant minutes down in the post going up against Santiam’s McKenzie Dodge in hope to slowing down the Wolverines post player to help keep her team in the game.
“It was tough with the foul trouble for sure, but we are tough. We don’t have a lot of big girls, but it was tough,” said Fahndrich, who and Hess are the tallest girls on the court at five-ten. “We did good being big the best we can.”
The six-foot Dodge scored 10 points of her 18 points in the first half, but it was just the beginning as the high-intensity that the first half ended with entered the second half with Western Christian rallying to make it 24-20 after a Makennan Hopper basket that forced Santiam to call timeout to recollect themselves and try to slow down the Pios charge.
But the Wolverines knew this league game is big for them, not just for league standing purposes but Santiam hadn’t beaten Western Christian since 2014 as they pushed their lead back. With a minute left in the third quarter, it was a 10 point lead starting with a three from Cami Duncan.
“We were ready to fight, so we came out with the intensity and made sure we didn’t give up,” said Dodge. “It was important because we normally have an issue where we let them catch up, like we get a lead and they’ll catch up and we fight back. So, I think that’s one of our strong points is being able to come back even if we’re down.”
Western Christain began to press to start the fourth quarter and they resulted in back-to-back baskets from Hess, Hess finished with 17 points in the game, to make it a two-possession game with 5:20 left in the game only to see Santiam answer back with a basket after that point.
For the Pioneers, it’s a trust thing. Trust in each other and trust that they can be more aggressive on the court.
“I think we need to trust in ourselves more and we could work on being more aggressive in every quarter, staying in a good mood and pretend you’re really big,” smiled Fahndrich as Western Christian opens the Dayton Tournament versus Yamhill-Carlton Thursday at noon.
MaKinley Gutierrez added another six in the tough 41-31 defeat to the Wolverines while Duncan and Shyanne Ward each had seven points each for Santiam with the Wolverines traveling to Colton on Thursday.
“We can build off of this by taking how we played today and looking at that this is a good game, this is one of our good games. So, if we can take that and put that into other games, like take how we beat other teams and how we played tonight and put that into that game as well,” said Dodge as they tip it off versus the Vikings at 6pm.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald