By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.—The Salem Academy Boys Basketball team had their work cut out for them Saturday evening in the opening round of the Capitol City Classic at Willamette University.
The Crusaders had drawn Rancho Christian Eagles, a program that had won the tournament in 2019, and despite Rancho Christian’s 3-6 record coming into the game, the Eagles were still a formidable challenge for the 2A Oregon squad.
Nonetheless, Salem Academy came out mentally ready to roll in their tournament opener. The Crusaders pulled even at four-all early in the first quarter and had found themselves down 12-9 entering the second quarter against the Temecula, California team.
“The beginning of the game it wasn’t bad, we just made a couple of mistakes here and there that kind of hurt us. We just need to keep our heads together in tough situations and stay focused on the game itself,” said Chase Brown.
But the Southern California Eagles squad managed to work around the 2-3 zone that Salem Academy squad threw their way and started to hit their shots in the second quarter. Pushing their three-point lead to 32-15 by the halftime break and swinging momentum into their favor in the 58-34 opening round victory.
The tournament is filled with tough competition as the one the Crusaders had on this evening, knowing too that Monday’s game against 5A’s Corvallis will be as mentally and physically taxing as the one they played on Saturday night.
Something that’ll help them when they return to Tri-River Conference play against the likes of Kennedy and Western Christian.
“I think it’ll be especially helpful for teams like against Western. Teams with big players that are physical. It’s good for us to go into it with some experience,” John Pass said. “We were really ready on defense (tonight), we’ve been working on our 2-3 and it came out really strong. It was really tough, the second quarter especially.
“They started hitting a lot of threes and those threes crept up on us. It was disheartening, but I’m glad we came back and played hard in the second half. We just got to come out against Corvallis really hard.”
The Eagles hit four of their seven threes in the second quarter as Rancho Christian advances to play Wilsonville Monday night at 5:30. Rodney Brown led the Eagles with 15 points and Eric Kuang had 12 points, all coming from four three-pointers.
Salem Academy, led by Pass’ 12 points and seven from Brown, play the Spartans at 1pm Monday at Willamette University.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald