By Jeremy McDonald
PENDLETON, Ore.– Anything is possible at this point of the basketball season. But hey, a win is a win right?
The senior-heavy Salem Academy squad survived a threat from the sophomore-heavy Bandon squad after being up 24-9 in the second quarter to advance to the 2A State Title game with the 41-35 win over the Tigers.
And interesting, as Bailey Pedersen points, the Crusaders were down 5-0 to start. So it’s all kinds of shade of March Madness craziness.
“I think we were just a little bit nervous. I know I was, but we were telling ourselves, ‘keep playing Crusader basketball. We need to play our game,” Pedersen said. “It goes up and down, but we just got to find a way to keep moving.”
Keeping moving was what they did. Following their 24-4 run to take nearly a 20-point lead, Bandon began to chip away at the deficit.
It was a 13-point game at halftime, 26-13 before the Tigers cut it to 32-23 going into the fourth quarter. Staying with it was crucial as Bandon continued to creep closer and closer to them on the scoreboard.
With 35 seconds left in the game, it was 37-35 in favor of the Crusaders.
“We knew that they were going to come out strong in the second half, we just had to keep it going. But we did let up a little bit in the second half, but we just had to ekep fighting,” Annabelle Brawley said.
Over the final half-minute of the game, Bandon pressured. But had to resort to fouling in hopes to complete the comeback.
Pedersen was sent to the line twice over the span, going 4-for-4 at the line and would finish the game with 16 points to seven rebounds in the win as they turn their focus in snapping their Championship drought. A drought that has spanned back to 2008.
“Honestly, we just got to play hard. We just got to play smart, play our game and not let anyone push us and play someone elses (game). We got to come out and play Crusader basketball. We just got to come out and be confident,” said Pedersen.
The Crusaders play in the State Championship Game at the Pendleton Convention Center at 8:45pm.
Brawley finished with ten points and three steals. The Tigers were led by Olivia Thompson’s 14 points and Makiah Vlerck’s 11 points as Bandon plays in the third/fifth-place game at 2:15pm at the Convention Center.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald