By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– West Salem has had made a unfortunate habit of building large leads since Mountain Valley Conference-play began, only to see them fade away shortly after building it.
Twice against McNary and again versus Sprague Tuesday, the Titans had build a double-digit lead only to see against the Olympians at home, a tied ball game after a pair of Greyson Salinas free throws during the third quarter.
“It’s tough, but we just have to work as a team and stay positive, keep our heads up. We’ll fight back in it every time,” said West Salem’s Alec Dyson.
Salinas tied the game at 42 in a game in which West Salem once led 30-18 during the second quarter. Sprague began to chip away at the lead with stops and executing on the offensive end, getting the score to 37-35 in the closing seconds of the first half on a 17-7 run.
The Titans Jackson Lowery, who scored 17 of his 19 points in the first half, hit a three at the buzzer to give West Salem a 40-35 cushion going into the locker room. The Olympians answered with a 7-2 run to start the second half coming out of the Salinas charity stripe shots.
“We were down the whole game so we knew we had to make a push. Get stops in order to comeback and that’s what we did,” said Sprague’s Mason Lomax. “We played hard in the third quarter, that’s when we made our push.”
Both teams entered the contest tied for fourth in the MVC at 5-5, looking to gain ground on Summit ahead of them and keep distance from Mountain View behind them.
West Salem answered the run by regaining the lead and building a 56-49 lead with five minutes remaining. Lomax and Dallon Morgan brought it back to four a minute later. Jimmy Lathen hit a three to put the Titans up 59-52 with about three minutes to play.
The Olys got the game back to within four with 1:27 left, 63-59, but couldn’t do further damage with West Salem taking the game 69-62 by the final whistle.
“We definitely need to learn from this loss,” said Lomax, who finished with 14 points. “Tough loss, we didn’t play as hard as we could’ve. We’ve had a lot of mental mistakes, a lot of turnovers. We didn’t make shots this game. If we want to make the postseason, we definitely need to shoot better. Make smarter plays, not turn the ball over as much, execute our offense.”
Kobe Withers added 12 points for Sprague and Seth Shortis contributed 10 in the defeat.
Despite not playing their best either, and similar to the game with the Celtics in Keizer last Tuesday, the Titans know games like this helps in the long-haul with the playoffs looming beyond next week.
“It’s preparing us for tight games in playoffs and further into league. But we just got to keep winning close games, it’s preparing us for the tough ones,” said Dyson, who scored 20 points Tuesday.
West Salem has a tough one Friday when they travel to MVC-leading South Salem before closing out the regular season with Summit Tuesday in Bend and Senior Night next Friday with Bend.