By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– For much of the lower classifications, Tuesday was the last practice on home turf before departing for the final site locations.
For Blanchet Catholic and Salem Academy, it was their last practices before departing for Coos Bay Wednesday with them kicking off Elite 8 play Thursday evening.
Senior Crusader Wing Player Grace Brown remembers talking to Jamie VanderStoel during school about it Tuesday.
“I was thinking about that today,” said Brown as she mentioned the conversation with VanderStoel. “I was like, ‘I remember when I was a freshman. Jamie, I, Chole (Campbell) we were on the Varsity team, we barley got any minutes. Maybe get two minutes of Varsity if we’re lucky.
“I mean just going back to those times and reminiscing about old memories and our old teams and our team now. I don’t know, I’ve been so blessed to be with these girls and have my parents be there no matter what and Kari and Aaron. I love these people.”
For Bailey Hittner with the Cavaliers, it’s a moment in which it hasn’t hit her just yet as her Senior Year comes to a close.
“It’s pretty bittersweet, but I don’t think it’s going to really hit me that this is the last time really participating in basketball in this gym until after State,” said Hittner.
But that practice Tuesday for the two Salem-schools was one more opportunity for State with Blanchet opening Elite 8 play against a tough Vale team Thursday night at 6:30pm at Marshfield High School.
The Cavs defense has helped them to be the third-ranked team in 3A as they their four losses this year, two to Salem Academy, one to Kennedy and another to Stayton are against playoff caliber teams this year and they’ll be looking towards that defense again against the Vikings.
“So my dad’s big thing is defense,” smiles Hittner about her dad, Head Coach Ron Hittner. “We definitely play that up as much as we can. I think just focusing on that. Shots can fall, shots can miss, depends on the game but we really have to rely on our defense, and we have to talk constantly. That’s big part of it is talking.”
The second-ranked Crusaders will be having their trilogy matchup with Warrenton Thursday night at 8:15 at Marshfield High School.
And though the Warriors will have their six-foot post in Fernanda Alvarez back who was out in the two teams second match-up, Salem Academy hopes to come out a little bit sharper than they did in that December 27 meeting in Stayton that will start with their defense.
“Yeah that Warrenton game was a little rough for us,” said Brown of that second meeting. “We went through a lot of their plays today and they have (Alvarez) coming back and we’re adjusting for that. We’re going to rely on our defense which is one of our strong points as a team and honestly just our teamwork and talking on defense is what going to win us this game I think if you ask me. So going through that practice was very important.”