By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– Current Salem Academy assistant coach Ben Brown had a old saying when he was the Head Coach of the Crusader Girls Basketball program:
Be the Hunter, not the Hunted.
Call it the bullseye on their backs as well as they improve to 8-0 in PacWest Conference play following their 57-43 win over Amity Friday night at home. And their biggest thing is just staying humble and staying in the frame of their style of play.
“Just playing our style of basketball, trusting our coaches. Not being afraid of people who we play against…we’ve beat them once, we’ve beat them twice some of them. Just being confident in our offense, playing good defense and not playing selfish basketball, playing hard and having fun,” said Salem Academy’s Bennett Bos.
The Warriors too have a bulls-eye of sorts on their backs entering this season after their Cinderella-like run to the 3A State Championship Game last season. Knowing teams want to take them down as much as Amity wanted to be the first team to hand Salem Academy their first league loss of the season as they jumped out to a 13-3 lead out of the gate.
Yes there’s been some hiccups along the way for the Warriors. But as the Crusaders began to chip away at their ten-point lead, getting it to 13-9 by quarter’s end, games like these are helping them come league and possibly State playoffs with the plan to return to the Title game in 2020.
“It’s a slap in the face, but our competition…we got to realize our competition. I feel like we underestimate people. We got a lot of pressure on us after last year finishing second in State,” said Amity’s Josh Wart. “I think we got that on our shoulders and I think we need to lose it and play like we usually play.”
Both Wart and Bos each recorded double-doubles in the game. Bos of the 18-point, 11-rebound variety and Wart of the 12-point, 11-rebound kind. Wart also had a game-high three steals for the Warriors.
Salem Academy’s Austin Miller, who scored 11 first half points with six first half rebounds, helped pace the Crusaders 25-7 run to close out the first half and take a 28-20 lead into the halftime break. Outdoing the ten-point first half by Amity’s Kennan Graham to swing the moment in favor of Salem Academy into the second half.
Going back to their 2-3 defense from their January 21 match-up in Amity, they were able to tame Wart and the drives to the hoop that the Warriors were dishing out during the game.
“Down ten, we’re a calm team. Play SA ball and we got it…Staying calm and not panicking because we know our basketball,” said Miller. “(Wart’s) a good player, but communication is key. We talk and talk and talk and defend him well,”
The PacWest has became a Murderer’s Row of sorts since the realignment two years ago, the Warriors got the Crusaders back to within five at 36-31 before Salem Academy pulled away for good shortly after. With three teams in the Top 5 and another in the Top 15, you got to quickly reset and rebound for the next game.
With Dayton up next for Amity, there’s no time for relaxing as they look to keep up with the Pirates for the second-seed entering league play.
“We just need to know what our identity is and be Warriors. Come together as a team, not individuals. Keep chemistry between all of us,” said Wart. “Keep an positive attitude and get clicking at all cylinders again.”
The Crusaders play Blanchet Catholic Tuesday before closing out with Scio next Friday.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald