By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– If you didn’t look at the calendar, you would’ve thought it was Coos Bay or Pendleton with how Western Christian and De La Salle North Catholic played Saturday afternoon.
The crowd was loud and passionate. The players were getting after it, trading blows like it was a State Title game in the 71-66 Western Christian Pioneers win.
“It was beyond physical, it felt like a State Championship Game,” describe Kadeem Nelson playing in the game.
The Knights and Pioneers gave the stands a show, George Sadi hit two quick threes’ as De La Salle North Catholic jumped out to a quick 8-0 lead before Western Christian settled in and drew them back in.
Payton Richardson blocked a shot as it bounced off a Knight defender in the closing seconds of the half that led to Richardson draining a buzzer beating three to hand a 37-35 lead to the Pioneers.
Richardson turned and hollered to a Western Christian crowd who were on their feet.
“This type of game, it’s between two really good team and we go at it and that’s how the game is. The crowd was getting into too,” adds Payton Richardson on the atmosphere of the game.
The warfare continued into the third, and just as De La Salle North Catholic seemed to have the quarter advantage after Nelson got the lead back, Keaton Hull hit a buzzer three to give the lead back entering the fourth 49-47.
In the fourth, that’s where Richardson laid the hammer as they pushed their lead to 58-51 as Richardson had eight of his 24 points in the fourth.
“Oh it was huge because in recent times when the fourth quarter starts, we lose it a little bit and let the other team catch up like what happened with Santiam Christian,” said Richardson, who finished with 23 points. “But today we really picked it up, kept moving the ball and playing. We kept flowing and kept getting stops.”
They weren’t out of the woods yet as it was the Knights turn to draw in their opponent, getting it to 66-63 with 30 seconds left, but couldn’t get anything closer as Western Christian sealed the win at the line.
But these tough tournament games has a tendency to show teams what they are made of as their teams go their separate ways.
“We learned a lot,” starts Nelson, who finished with 21 points. “Rotation, discipline. Not fouling, we got into foul trouble, so not fouling and staying in front of our guys.”
Sadi also finished with 21 points for the Knights. Hull added 26 for the Pioneers.