By Jeremy McDonald
MILL CITY, Ore.— The Wild, Wild West has started with the pursuit of the second seed for the Tri-River Conference has started.
Santiam, sitting with two league losses, held the second seed entering Monday’s game with Sheridan and Kennedy right on their heels. The Trojans have been sneaky talented this season after graduating the bulk of their height and size, but had compensated that with speed this season that has the Mount Angel squad back in the same spot they were this time last year.
And while their speed has set them up, their shooting delivered during the second quarter of their 61-50 win Monday night on the road.
Up 11-8 entering the second quarter and with the Wolverines riding a 7-3 run to climb back into the game, Kennedy caught that hot streak where everything just landed them with a 28-11 halftime lead and momentum in their favor.
“It’s huge getting up by a lot because (Santiam’s) a good team and they’ll come back, it’s just nice to have that bigger lead,” said the Trojans Brady Traeger.
Traeger scored nine of his 13 points in the second quarter and were apart of a 17-3 rally that left both sides stunned in one fashion or another. Bruce Beyer added 12 points, Isaiah Barrigan contributed 10 in the win for the Trojans.
Santiam had their chances yes offensively, Chaz Storm led the Wolverines with 18 points, Ezra Downey added 15 points, Colin Thurston had seven. But their lone points of the second quarter came from three free throws, two by Storm and one by Aiden Aerni in his third-game back.
As frustrated as it was, the Wolverines offense finally clicked in the third quarter.
In the opening 11:36 of the second half, Santiam clawed back and were within nine of Kennedy with 4:24 left in the game, outscoring the Trojans 31-23 in that span while hitting on eventually seven second half three-pointers.
“It’s a good feeling because hopefully we see them again, we beat them last time and we know we can beat them. Second half I think it was pretty close scoring wise,” said Downey. “It should’ve been an back-and-forth game but the first half kind of screwed us over.”
With their 17 point lead now down to single-digits with a lot of time still left on the clock, Kennedy had to find ways to make sure that the door was shut on this comeback.
Defense made sure nine was as close as Santiam got as they picked up a stop seconds later, free throws were clutch as Beyer pushed the lead back to 11. Just little things here and there kept the Wolverines from getting over the hump against them in the Monday night victory.
“They were hitting shots, we just had to stay calm and do what we were doing. Make our shots and close out the game,” said Traeger. “We just got to keep doing what we’ve been doing all year, just play together and it’s all you can do.”
Kennedy has three league games left compare to four for the Wolverines, but only one against a Top 16 team in Sheridan during that span. The Spartans currently sit 16th in 2A, but has Western Christian, the Trojans and Santiam left ahead of them.
It’s no time to lay off the gas-pedal for sure, but it gives an opportunity for guys to heal up. Especially for the Wolverines who’s trying to get Aerni back into the groove of things and trying out new lineups with Hunter Reeser on the mend as they play Sheridan next Thursday at home heading into league playoffs.
“We’re going to push in practice really hard but make sure we rest up,” said Downey. “Take care of our bodies, take care of these next couple of games. We really need to put our foot down, not let them in it and be prepared for Sheridan.”
Photos By Jeremy McDonald