By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– Salem Academy came out punching above their weight class. Maybe way above as the first-year 2A team, dropping from 3A this year, decided to take on two 6A squads in McKay and South Salem to start the season the last two days. Taking their opening game 54-38 on Tuesday night.
But for their second game against another 6A team, they had to buckle down. South Salem, introducing a new look team from their Chiles Center team from the last time they took the court, found a groove two minutes into their 58-50 win over the Crusaders as they jumped out to a quick 9-0 lead on the 2A team.
“It’s a completely new team, we got a lot of stuff to work on. Get this game in, get things going with all the new players, the freshman and everything,” said the Saxons Jasper Phipps.
Phipps and Greg Comer each led the South Salem squad with 13 points with the Saxons surviving the charges brought on by Salem Academy. The Crusaders cut the nine-point deficit to four by the end of a less-than-ideal first quarter for either team due to ball-control, missed shots and turnovers.
“It’s a good challenge to get us ready for whatever league gives us and we got a couple more hard games against Amity and Dayton coming up in the next couple of weeks. Just good warm-ups to get the physicality level to where it needs to be and where our level of intensity needs to be,” Salem Academy’s Bennett Bos said.
During their final year in 3A, in the PacWest Conference with the Warriors of Amity and the Pirates of Dayton, all three traditionally strong small-school teams reached the Final Site in Coos Bay in 2020. The Crusaders finished the highest in a strange 3A year that year, finishing fourth as Salem Academy had lost four weapons themselves entering this season with a New Head Coach.
Ironically their new Head Coach, Ben Brown and South Salem’s Head Coach Travis Brown are brothers. Making things a little more interesting during family gatherings as the Saxons led 30-22 by the halftime break. Their lead was as in the double-figures during the second frame and was actually 12 by the end of the third quarter up 50-38 with both teams scoring their highest quarter totals of the game out of the halftime break.
“Oh it’s really nice to see when our team comes together. I’m excited to see moving forward with the potential, it’s really nice to see that,” Phipps said. “They’re a really good team. They’re really scrappy, so it just prepares us. First game for the rest of the season so we know what’s coming.”
Salem Academy, with their scrappiness and mixed in with both team’s defenses digging in, managed to find the cylinder a few times in the final frame to pull the game to five with 65 seconds remaining at 52-47 following Chase Brown’s basket.
“It shows our confidence in our abilities, our confidence in our coaching and our practices. Everyone’s human, everyone bleeds blood and, on every night, anyone can be beat. We just had to step up to the challenge,” Bos said.
Bos finished with 13 points of his own, Brown’s seven rebounds led Salem Academy to the Saxons Eli Gabriel’s game-high eight rebounds.
Gabriel would snap the run on the next offensive drive, a missed shot led to Phipps pushing the lead to 56-47 with 33.9 seconds remaining in the game with Salem Academy not being able to make one last push for the lead in the closing minute as they travel to Tillamook Friday to play the Cheesemakers.
The Saxons host West Salem Thursday before traveling to North Salem Saturday to play the Vikings as the basketball season kicks-off.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald