By Jeremy McDonald
TIGARD, Ore.– The Salem Academy Girls Basketball team wasn’t quite expecting this start to their 2021-22 season, but they’ll take the 3-0 start. Closing out the Westside Christian Westside Winter Jam with a gritty 44-34 win over former PacWest Conference foe Jefferson for the Title.
Day one of the tournament, not even a half into their season, Aly Herber and Dylaniee Carmony suffered severe injuries that left the Crusaders without their two post players for the near future.
Nonetheless Salem Academy stayed the course with wins over De La Salle North Catholic, Santiam Christian and the Lions.
“They’re both our big posts and we’re already a short team. So just knowing that we got to make more of an effort to box out since we are a lot smaller and working harder,” Annabelle Brawley. “They’re two of our starters and they’re great players. But just figuring out how to work together and as a team without them.
Rebounding was one of the things that the Lions’ Amira Saad said they’ll need to improve on with Jefferson off to a 2-1 start as well. The squad was planning without Nashea Wilson and yeah her physicality and post presence will help once she’s on the court, but it’s an area of focus moving into their games with Willamina, Waldport and Santiam this week.
“We need to rebound better and box out because we hardly got any rebounds,” said Saad. “We need to pay attention when we’re passing the ball to each other. We see them for a second and then we’re not reading each other really well and throwing it to the defense.”
Jefferson’s perimeter defense kept Salem Academy at bay, holding them to 2-of-13 from three-point range with the game. The Crusaders held an eight-point lead, 24-16, at the halftime break before Salem Academy erupted for a 15-4 third quarter frame to separate the two squads.
The lead reached 42-22 at its largest in favor of the Crusaders as their scrappy play swung the game into their favor. Gelling more as a unit following their injuries with Santiam and Gervais on the horizon this upcoming week for Salem Academy.
“It helped us gel more, big shoes to fill, they’re great players,” Brawley starts. “I think just knowing when to push the ball, knowing when to settle it down and not having so many turnovers and not trying to rush it. Making smart passes and making sure we’re working together as a team.”
The Crusaders left the door open though down the stretch. The Lions slowly cut the 20 point fourth quarter lead to ten in the final minute, picking it up defensively and turning it into points as they finished the tournament on a high note moving forward.
“It definitely gave us a look and made us see things that we need to work on during practice to play against the better teams in league. I think it’ll help us a lot,” Saad said.
Saad led the Lions with nine points, three rebounds and two steals. Nicole Bruce and Baylie Campau each had team-high’s in steals with three. Gretchen Orton had seven points for Jefferson.
Brawley finished with a 15-point, 11-rebound, three assist game. Grace Hinkle had seven points and six rebounds. Bailey Pedersen led the Crusaders with a game-high four steals.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald