By Jeremy McDonald
STAYTON, Ore.– Things just started to click for North Salem midway through the fourth quarter against one of the 4A’s best teams in Woodburn Wednesday afternoon.
For much of the game following the Vikings brief 15-12 lead in the Bulldogs 71-64 victory in the SCTC Holiday Classic game, nothing went North Salem’s way. The Woodburn defense won the rebounding battle, created stops with turnovers and made shots difficult as the Bulldogs led 52-39 at the 4:58 mark of the final quarter.
“We’re always a defensive minded team, we’re always looking to get our defense first. That’s what usually gets our offense going. So for us to keep North Salem from scoring was really good for us to keep a cushion going forward and our defense was pretty good today,” Woodburn Bulldogs’ Spencer Karesseboom said.
Dalton ‘DJ’ Ayres walked up to the line at this point following a technical foul on Woodburn, hitting on his free throws to make it a ten-point game. Seconds later he drained a three-pointer and Ivan Primbs split a pair of free throws soon after as now we’re talking a 52-46 game with 4:07 left in the game with North Salem playing with more pep in their step coming down the home stretch.
“It was fun. It was a good game the whole way, it was nice that shots were finally falling. Like at the beginning of the third quarter, they weren’t falling but at the end of the fourth quarter they started falling and it was really nice,” Ayres said.
The Vikings have been in some tight battles prior to Wednesday’s game with teams like Nelson, McMinnville and Newberg, with Woodburn on this day and host-Stayton Thursday, both games serve as final tune-ups before returning to Mid-Willamette Conference play Monday versus South Albany. Knowing that tightening up the little things like helpside, taking charges will be the big difference for them in league play.
“These are going to be huge for us because we’re a very talented team this year with all of us coming and doing our job. I believe we can keep up with everyone this year. We kept up with a really good team today,” Ayers said. “A lot of us weren’t doing our jobs today, but as long as we can tighten everything up these next few games, we can be set for Crescent Valley, Silverton and all that.”
Karesseboom and Cruz Veliz helped push Woodburn’s lead back to double-figures a few moments later. For a Bulldogs program returning a handful of Varsity athletes from their 11-4 Spring season, this was a good test of finishing a game knowing how similarly tough the Oregon West Conference is with Cascade, Stayton and Philomath.
Answering the Vikings run with baskets of their own and free throws from Karesseboom, Tomas Veliz hit their free throw shots with Ayers and North Salem breathing down their necks to preserve the win.
“Those types of games, they’re tough. Tough situation, giving eight points quickly to the other team and having a good lead. We were able to answer back and score every time we had the ball and we were able to keep it together. (Ayres) making tough shots at the end of the game as a shooter. We just had to keep playing tight defense and answer back, we were able to do that. Knock down a couple of free throws late game.
“It was a good test for us coming forward. We were able to get the win and once 12 o’clock rolls around we’re thinking of the next team coming up.”
The Bulldogs (7-2) wrap up the SCTC Holiday Classic Thursday with West Albany at 1:30pm and the Vikings (3-5) play Stayton (6-1), who defeated the Valiants 67-41 Wednesday, at 6pm.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald