By Jeremy McDonald
PENDLETON, Ore.– Somewhere up in the yonder, Michael Galer is smiling. Perhaps leading a Pioneer cheer, perhaps going ballistic over what occurred on the Pendleton Convention Center Basketball Court.
Some say legends never die, surely the legend of Galer hasn’t. There was a feeling he had a hand in Western Christian’s double overtime win over Salem Academy for the 2A State Title Saturday night.
In the sea of blue of Western Christian, there were shirts that read ‘Gimme a P!’ with Galer’s face on it. Supporting one of their own who sadly passed in 2021. Their number-one fan who’s celebrating their win with them.
“Oh,” smiled and laughed the Pios Head Coach Gary Hull. “Gimme a P! Gimme an I’. He’s probably going to be doing his Pioneer call.”
“Oh, he’s screaming his heart out right now. He’s going crazy, I know he is right now. I don’t know what words he’ll be saying because he’ll be screaming so loud,” adds Austin Sladek.
The State Championship Game was one for the ages. It was the fourth time that the two squads have met with the slight advantage going to the Crusaders in the series two games to one.
And Salem Academy wasn’t going to make things easy. Their pressure defense turned deficits of 15-5 and 29-20 to lead 18-17 and drew even at 41 in the closing seconds of regulation to force overtime with the game knotted up at 41.
“We know Western, we know what they’re well and it was to attack, make them stop us and make them beat us. Stay back on our heels and not get beat by them,” said Salem Academy’s John Pass. “We had to stop Chaz. On offense, we had to get it inside. Jack (Oglesby) played good, Jaren (Oglesby) shot good and we had the shot to win. We wanted a jump shot to win it.
“We played good, we executed good to try to get it.”
Pass scored eight of his 21 points in the overtime period as he kept Salem Academy paced with Western Christian. 12 points were scored in the first overtime period as tensions grew and grew going into the second overtime period.
“Oh so exhausted bro. Physically and mentally, I just ahd to keep pushing myself, being a leader as well. A leader for my teammates to even push them to come out with the win,” Sladek said of the game.
Sladek finished with 19 points as him, Lucas Zook and Chaz Storm helped keep pace from Pass’ last push.
Storm would put the Pioneers ahead 54-53 with ten seconds left as the Western Christian defense contested Jaren Oglesby’s jumper at the buzzer. Deciding the game off a lay-in and a solid defensive stand to help the Pios to their third State Title since 2011.
“Pass was on fire, and we were hoping to get a rebound and push it up the court,” Storm said. “We just kept pounding it down low, shared the ball and got touches. We took the best shot we could possibly get.”
Storm finished with 12 points, Zook added another nine. Owen Stalnaker scored 11 in the win.
And despite the heartbreaking finish, just being able to finish second in State and being this close to the Title in front of their own screaming fans, it was a great way to finish their season.
“Oh it was awesome. A awesome experience, it was loud. Last year it wasn’t the same. It wasn’t as loud, it wasn’t crazy. There were a lot more fans. Even though we lost, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It was a great experience,” Pass said.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald