By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– Four of the last five 3A State Championships featured De La Salle North Catholic with the Knights taking home the title this past season.
And with them coming off of a back-to-back tournaments that saw the 3A private school face 6A talent in schools like Westview in Beaverton and Sandy out to the east side of Portland, confidence were high for De La Salle North Catholic entering their meeting against Santiam Thursday afternoon at the Crusader New Year’s Invitational.
But enter stage right for the Wolverines as Santiam took advantage of the Knights slow start to built a 19-8 lead.
“Together as a unit, we believed that the first quarter, that first half. We believed we had the athletes, the skills and the players to beat them and when you got chemistry like that, it’s kind of hard to lose it,” said Colin Thurston, who had seven points in the game. “Towards the end though, we made a few mistakes here and there and they capitalize on them. That’s what their defense is designed to do, but I definitely though I was a good learning experience for our team.”
Freshman Chaz Storm hit a massive three that made it 19-8 as both sides traded baskets with the Wolverines still leading by 11 over De La Salle North Catholic.
There was no fear with the Knights climbing back into the game, but Santiam hung around, leading 40-39 halfway through the third.
“You just got to look at them like they’re like anyone else and you got to look at them like you look at yourself I mean because it’s all about hard work. If we matched their intensity then we’ll be fine. We’ll just find the open guys, so it’s that easy,” said Storm, who had 12 points in the game.
But a 7-0 run by De La Salle North Catholic seemed as if they could put this game away up 46-40 before the Wolverines tied it up thanks to Dustin Keys hitting two big baskets to make it 46-all with 7:16 left behind great Wolverine defense that kept the Knights from sealing the win.
Aiden Aerni gave Santiam a 48-46 advantage by the 6:20 mark before DLSNC tied it and built a slight 52-48 advantage when Kobe Dyer got the Wolverines to within two with 2:16 left in the game.
The little mistakes that they were making, weren’t inhibiting Santiam as the crew from Mill City that have been together for so long showed the school from Portland that they weren’t afraid of Goliath. That David was still picking, in this storyline themselves, up from the canvas and asking for more.
The David in this story had two cracks at possibly getting it to a one score game if not tie the game, but it was not meant to be on this January day. Falling 54-50 to one of 3A’s best.
The mental toughness was there throughout, they put a lot into this game. And now, as they dust themselves off, they are aware what is to come next on Friday against Catlin Gabel at 6pm in Salem Academy’s Auxiliary Gym.
“The mental toughness of our team is spaced around trust. We’ve known each other for years and we trust that if we trust the other person on our team that they’ll clamp up their guy and they trust that we’ll clamp up ours and that’s how we go about our defense and that’s how we stopped them,” said Thurston. “We’ll go back and watch film, coach is going to get a game plan together and I know our guys are going to be rested and be ready for tomorrow. It’s going to be exciting.”
Aerni had 10 points, Kobe Dyer had seven points and Keys had six in the game.