Crusaders Hang On To Defeat Cougars
By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– The Salem Academy Girls Basketball team have become more of a perimeter team since the injuries of Aly Herber and Dylaniee Caramony in their opening season game to De La Salle North Catholic back in December.
Turning to their three-point shooting in their zone offense, and using it to edge Gervais in the Tri-River Conference League Playoff Championship game, defeating the Cougars 38-37. It was a game in which the Crusaders went 7-for-11 from deep with Aubrey Smith going 4-for-4 from the range in the victory.
“We’ve been practicing it a lot. The team work is key and passing the ball in-and-out of the key and that’s how we run our offense,” Smith said. “Everyday in the team room to getting to know the team and just working together as a team better-and-better everyday, we’re starting to communicate in our zone offense.
“So against (Gervais) it’s just really helping us and having them against us in league is going to benefit us as a team.”
The Cougars knew of the threat of the range of Salem Academy’s shooters, and accounting for them has been a crucial key for them as they chipped away at a 27-21 deficit and got it back to one in the final minute of the game.
Accounting for contested shots and making sure they’re there when they miss as they were facing a 38-37 deficit with 53.2 seconds left in the game.
“We definitely talk about Salem Academy and their three’s. We like to think of it as a 3/2 in how many threes are you going to stop and how many twos are we going to come back at them,” Gervais’ Sofia Contreras said. “It’s that three-game is where they get us and stopping those three’s, especially against Salem Academy.”
“It was very challenging. We had to make sure we’re out on the ball and not letting them touch it. Just making sure we’re closing out and not letting them getting shot up,” adds Smith.
The Cougars couldn’t capitalize on their first attempt and their defense continued to match the intensity of that of the Crusaders as neither team gained ground. The key however was Salem Academy’s defense in the final minute as they held Gervais scoreless in their three, final minute possessions to seal the League Title and the Top seed out of the TRC.
“It was tough,” smiled Contreras. “But we’re looking to go on to the State Championships and we want to see them there. We want to see them going on, going forward and we’re going on for that championship and we want to be against them. This game was a boost for us to be able to compete at their level.
“(Head Coach Kyle Buse) definitely reminded us that we’re starting on the journey now. It’s time for State and we got to pick it up now. This game was a stepping stone for what we will do.”
Buse and Derek Imig both were named Co-Coach of the Year as the Crusaders Annabelle Brawley was named TRC Player of the Year as Salem Academy hosts Oakridge and the Cougars hosts Enterprise on February 26.
Brawley had a ten-point, 12-rebound double-double while Olivia Boyd led Gervais with seven points and eight rebounds. Contreras led the Cougs with a team-high eight points. Smith had a game-high 12 points in the win.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald