By Jeremy McDonald
PORTLAND, Ore.– For how bad the game started Sunday afternoon, here they were milking the clock under 20 seconds left in overtime with the game tied at 51-all with Sheldon.
Their 53-51 OT loss to the Irish was all-and-all not the result they were looking for, but after a first half that saw a lid on basket for them that had them down 28-17 at halftime against a physical Sheldon team, OT was a strong finish to the game.
“We just had a really good talk at halftime about our intensity and just bringing our game up. We just had to focus more, I don’t think we were expecting to play that scrappy against us. We weren’t prepared, so we just had to get our head back into the game,” said Ellyson Haytas.
Just the little things pointed out Haytas in the offensive rebounds, the free throw game after shooting 36-percent in the first half and just finishing the game.
“It’ll definitely help us to show that we have to put more effort in…We didn’t really finish that game,” said Haytas, who had four points and a three-pointer.
It’s weird to think, they almost made as many three-pointers (nine) as they did made free throws (12). Four of those three’s came way of Hilary James who, after a four-point first half, erupted on the scene with all four of her three-pointers and scoring 20 points over the last two quarters and in overtime as South Salem mounted their comeback.
When she tied the game up at 32 with 2:14 left in the third quarter, she scored had 13 points in the quarter alone with the Saxons settled in for the second half. James would give them an one-point lead and a Delaney Keith three-pointer gave South Salem their biggest lead of the game at 39-35 early in the fourth quarter.
“It was tough. It was a battle and I just think we just had to pick each other up,” said James. “We were all kind of in our heads in one-point because our shots weren’t falling. But once we started encouraging each other, our shots started to fall. We came back, but this time we couldn’t pull it out.”
It was a mentally challenging game as well as physical. It tested the Saxons for things to come with Mountain Valley Conference-play and a playoff push as they expect yearly as it came down to the final possession.
James had a chance to win it in regulation, her shot didn’t fall. They answered in overtime.
Victoria Stafford answered Sheldon’s basket with one of her own to hand South back the lead 49-48, Malyah Bolden adds to the lead at the free throw line with 1:31 left in the overtime period.
But as the Irish clamped down, they tied the game at 51 and turned to their defense while the Saxons held for the last shot, getting the ball back and got the go-ahead basket with six seconds remaining as South weren’t able to capitalized on one last chance for double overtime or the win.
“We’re going to go back into league. We’re going to keep working, we know we haven’t arrive yet,” said James. “But we’re working and we’re getting there and I think we can be one of the top teams.
“We just got to get our offense going, watching film, fixing our mistakes. This game we didn’t box out, just working on the little things and our mental states. We got to keep it positive and keep encouraging one another.”
Stafford finished with ten points and Keith contributed another eight in the South Salem defeat Sunday. The Saxons host Century Friday before traveling to Sherwood on January 10 to close out preseason play.