By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– It came down to clutch execution down the stretch between North Salem and Dallas Girls Friday night in a game in which each team had to find a way to be the last of the two with their big run.
The Dragons once held a 30-28 lead following a Emma Classen basket midway through the third quarter before the Vikings answered with a 14-6 advantage to take a 42-36 lead midway through the fourth quarter.
North Salem finds themselves still in the hunt for an automatic bid out of the Mid-Willamette Conference, sitting three games behind Corvallis (7-4) for the fourth and final automatic bid at 4-7 in league with five games to play in the regular season. They know they got some winnable games ahead to make it happen, but need to clean up a few things along the way.
“I think we just need to boxing out more seriously and then nail our free throws,” said the Viks Emma Haburn. “When we beat Corvallis on Tuesday, it was just free throws for us. I think we missed two that day, free throws would have changed the game today.”
The Vikings went 8-for-19 at the free throw line and 5-for-11 in the fourth quarter that helped the young Dallas team across from them slowly claw back into the game. The Dragons knew that North Salem was at their caliber of play, it was just stringing it all together that helped them keep it so close.
“From the get-go we knew that this team is at our caliber of play and we knew from the get-go that if we played hard the whole time that it’ll take care of itself,” starts Dragons freshman Ruby Earhart. “I think staying at an high-intensity the whole time and having a sense of urgency 90-percent of the time really helped us to have such a close game.”
Earhart finished with 12 points in the 48-47 North Salem win as Classen and Faith Martin-Ball cut the score to 44-42 with three to go.
The North Salem defense challenged the Dragons to beat them in different ways as Fitzke hit one of her five three-pointers that looked like it could have been the dagger three that did the game in with the Vikings up 47-42 with 1:16 left in the game.
“It was a lot of our big post moving around,” said Fitzke on the defense. “As soon as they started moving and stop sliding, that’s when we started getting more stops.”
North Salem played a portion of the final bit of the game without Dana Romero, who fouled out in the fourth quarter. But freshman in Talhaya Power along with Rosemaline Watley helped fill the hole left by Romero for the remainder of the game.
Dallas however, like a last gasp, came back at it as Classen tried for an ‘And-One’ only to get two free throws that she nailed to get the Dragons back to within one with 33.3 left in the game. With young girls like Martin-Ball, Earhart and Maddie Doig to name a few, to be in these tight games will help them develop in the games moving ahead.
“We played with a lot of heart. It was really close and we kept pushing through the whole game,” said Classen. “We’ve had a lot of super close games and we could win. I think this will help with confidence, compete and win games.”
Classen finished with 19 points, Martin-Ball added another 10 in the game.
Fitzke got North Salem up 48-46 with 19 seconds left before the Vikings challenged the sophomore in Martin-Bell to make those pressure free throws. She missed the front-end of an one-and-one, but the Dragons got the ball back from Classen was fouled to possibly tie the game at 48 down 48-46.
The Senior was only able to split the two free throws as Haburn iced the 49-47 win with splitting her free throws with 2 seconds left.
North Salem is off until Thursday when they travel to Independence to play Central while the Dragons host Corvallis Tuesday at 7pm.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald