By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– It looks as if the South Salem Boys Basketball team, with their youth on their roster, may be turning their best foot forward entering the Mountain Valley Conference following their tough 77-69 defeat to Grants Pass Saturday afternoon.
The thing that hurt the Saxons (4-6) against the Caveman was consistency. South Salem jumped to a 11-7 lead in the first quarter behind two first quarter three-pointers by Greg Comer. Missed opportunities offensively, turnovers and unnecessary fouls opened the door for Grants Pass to quickly turn the four-point deficit into a 38-25 lead by the third quarter before South Salem settled back down.
And when they did, they drew the Southern Oregon squad back in. Pulling out of their funk to pull within one of the Cavemen going to the fourth quarter down 51-50.
“We came out of the locker room and said that we needed to bring the energy up. We were lacking a lot of energy, and we did bring up the energy, but it was a little bit too late,” Eli Gabriel.
“This was a good game to get back on track and get ready for the regular season,” adds Charlie Rapp. “That was big. We were down ten I think at halftime and down 15 early in the third quarter, we came back in the third quarter. We brought the energy up, and the fourth quarter brought the energy. We lost it at the end, but it was huge.”
The non-league gauntlet has helped guide the Saxons along. Jamboree against 3A Juggernaut in Dayton and 2A Power Salem Academy. The Capitol City Classic in town, the Abby’s Holiday Classic in Medford, all good tests to prepare them for the league that starts Tuesday at home against Mountain View.
“It’s helped a lot. We have three freshmen on the team that haven’t played basketball since like seventh grade, so it’s just getting them in the gym, getting shots up and I think this team will come together good,” Gabriel said.
South Salem maintained their momentum going into the fourth. Staying within a possession or two of Grants Pass coming down the stretch, but couldn’t overcome the deficit and finish the job before the game ended. Learning from this game as they enter their league opener against the Cougars here in a few days.
“Little things like boxing out, steals, right-help position, pushing the ball, energy on the bench, everything,” Rapp said.
Rapp finished with 15 points, Comer with 18 points while Gabriel led South Salem with 19 points. The Cavemen’s Dylan Neufeld had a game-high 29 points in the win.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald