By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– The thing about a Gary Hull-led Western Christian team is that you’ll have to play a complete four quarters, and well, to have a chance at games end.
And for two-plus quarters of the Pioneers 71-44 win against East Linn Christian Academy Wednesday night, the Eagles rose to that challenge knowing how quickly Western Christian can pull away from teams.
At one point, we were talking about a 37-34 game during the third quarter as Cole King and company were keeping up with the quarter-plus the Pios had out of Austin Sladek and Chaz Storm filling in there after. Sladek, coming off of an ankle injury, is working his way back to health and had scored ten points in his short time on the court as Western Christian led 28-20 midway through the second quarter.
“It was really important for us (to come out strongly), these last few games we’ve struggled a little bit coming out strong. That was one of the main things that we needed to do was starting strong,” Sladek said.
A game like this with the high-pace, the physicality, the efficiency of the offenses as both teams entering the second half of their respective league seasons. The Pioneers with the Tri-River Conference and East Linn Christian with the Central Valley Conference.
“It taught us where we’re at and where we need to be. We put two good quarters in and we need to put four together,” King said.King scored 13 of his 19 points in the opening half with East Linn Christian hung around down 35-27 at halftime before making it a one possession game early in the third quarter.
“We knew we had to come in strong because they’re a really good team. We started off really good, then we started to get tired,” King described the game. “We slowed it down and stopped hitting our shots, we should’ve gone to the paint and we didn’t.”
Western Christian’s high-paced system swung the game into their favor during the third. By quarters end, any nerves of how close this game was faded as the Pios led 56-38. A momentum swing that aided in Western’s 15th win of the season as they’ll host Sheridan Saturday afternoon.
“We started stringing stops together and went into our Man Offense, our motion… and we moved the ball really well. We penetrated and got some good shots,” Storm said. “This is getting us ready for the next two weeks. We got a lot of games packed together and not a lot of rest. So it’ll be great to get games like this where we saw a lot of good energy, East Linn did, it’s good to practice against teams like that who are up-tempo and will get into your face.”
Storm had a game-high 26 points in the win , Chase Beachy added ten for the Eagles, who travels to Oakland Friday before hosting Monroe Saturday.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald