By Jeremy McDonald
MT. ANGEL, Ore.– This game goes back to the old adage of ‘control the controllable’.
Battling for third-place in the Tri-River Conference, there’s a solid enough chance that the conference may get one of 2A’s four At-Large bids to the Cumulative Week playoffs that start on Monday.
Santiam and Kennedy met Wednesday afternoon, both tied with Sheridan with two league losses. All were a loss behind Western Christian, who has the tiebreaker for second-place with wins over all three of the squads; but similarly, the Wolverines are catching fire when they need to be.
Making it borderline scary if they do get an At-Large bid following Saturday’s meeting following their 65-54 win over the Trojans on this day late in the season.
“We’re really hoping for that At-Large (bid). We had to finish out this game strongly and win on Friday and hope for the best. This is the first step, this is a good solid team we just beat,” Chaz Storm said.
Storm and the Trojans Riley Cantu had stellar games to back-up their defenses. Storm scored 15 of his 26 points in the opening half as Santiam held two separate near ten-point leads, one in each half.
Cantu, who came to life in the second half with 18 of his 27 points, helped guide the Trojans back both times. Backing their press defense with his timely shots and while battling two towering athletes in Storm and Ty Best the Wolverines have to fight for rebounds if they miss on their shots.
“I thought we did well, bounce back from Sheridan…we played sloppy. We hustled a lot and played hard in this game. It sucked, it didn’t go the way we wanted,” Cantu starts. “We played some good defense. They made some tough shots, every time we went down the floor. There’s nothing much we can do about it, keep practicing every day.”
Santiam pulled out to a 56-47 lead with 4:45 left in the game after a Best dunk. Cantu hit a three and Brett Boen added a basket to make it a four-point game a minute later. That’s where the game hovered around as the defensive warfare continued.
The Wolverines had to rely on their free throws. Gage Twede, Quentin Cook and Best connected to help build a cushion in the game’s final minute.
“That was everything for us. Free throws at the end with Ty, Gage and Quinton made some great plays with free throws. That really helped us,” Storm said. “I thought we were locking-in on defense that game and I thought we did pretty great staying on our feet, contesting shots. They have some great shooters; Riley is a great shooter. He hit a lot of tough shots.”
Kennedy closes out the season Friday at Salem Academy while Santiam hosts Colton back up in Mill City the same day as well to close out the regular season.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald