By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– West Salem got it done in every way possible in the Capitol City Classic over the course of the past week.
They won big, like they did against Jefferson of Portland and Silverton. Winning both games 67-50 and 75-53 respectively. They came back from 27-7 down Tuesday night against Beaverton to win in Double Overtime 65-62.
The Titans were absolutely clutch as they became the first Oregon team to win the Classic in its history Wednesday night, doing it in West Salem fashion in their 42-39 win over 5A power Wilsonville.
“It means a lot, we’ve worked hard for it and I think we’ve deserved it. We just had to be clutch. Jon (Breyman) came in clutch for us last night and I came big for us tonight,” Tommy Slack said.
Leading up to Slack’s free throws to ice the three-point win, West Salem had to overcome some adversity. In a game where both teams pushed tempo, pushed aggressive and physical play with the crowd at Willamette University making it feel like a State Championship game, the Wildcats took advantage of opportunities afforded to them by the Titans.
Turnovers hurt. As did the fouls as Wilsonville built themselves a nice little 28-21 lead during the third quarter of the Title bout. Momentum was in favor of the ‘Cats at this point.
But never mentally out of it, West Salem kept punching and kept fighting. A 5-0 run drew them back into the contest, 28-26. Wilsonville extended the lead 36-30 going to the fourth.
“Just coming into it with the mindset that we’re never out of it and that we can keep coming back,” Jackson Leach said. “We know we can always battle back. We weren’t playing our best game in the first half against Beaverton, but we all knew we could and we’re still not at our potential that we can be. Keep working and keep trusting each other.
“This is crazy, this is an awesome experience especially as a sophomore. I can’t love my teammates any more than I do. This is a great team, great family, it’s a crazy experience.”
Their trust and their work ethic kept the Wildcats in striking distance that they took advantage of in the fourth. Leach hit the go-ahead three-pointer that sent the Titan student body into a frenzy with three minutes to play.
West Salem’s defense did all they could to keep Wilsonville off the board in the closing minutes to perfection. They held the Wildcats to two fourth quarter points while outscoring them 10-2 in the final frame as Slack hit the icing free throws with 55 seconds left in the game.
“I was super nervous,” Slack said of his free throws. “I had to stay calm, take a few deep breaths and focus on my form…We can take (this tournament) into the season and hopefully it’ll lead us to the Championship
The win improves West Salem to 6-1 on the year while handing Wilsonville their first loss of the season. But they’re not setting their hats on this big victory. They want more as they travel to Westview on December 30 to close out 2021.
Breyman finished with a team-high 11 points for West Salem. Logan Thebiay led Wilsonville with ten.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald