By Jeremy McDonald
MILL CITY, Ore.– Santiam threw everything and the kitchen sink at Kennedy Wednesday night in the Tri-River Conference opener for both teams and found a way in getting it done. Pulling possibly one of those great mid-season upsets that could propel a team in the process as the Wolverines picked up the 55-52 win at home.
They did this without their top shooter in Ezra Downey, who was out recovering from a concussion suffered in the Newport Tournament going into the New Year. But even without their top scorer, the Wolverines worked around it. Jumping out to a 24-9 lead and sustaining their momentum going into the second half, leading as much as 34-29 with 2:36 left in the third quarter as they matched anything that the Trojans threw their way on this night.
“We wanted it, ever since the Newport tournament that we went to and won. We’ve had a chip on our shoulders ever since. We want to win now, we have that drive and the effort and we’re all putting it together,” Gage Twede said.
Twede. Quentin Clark and Jesse Dana all led the way. Twede and Clark on the perimeter and Dana in the trenches against Brett Boen and Ethan Kleinschmit. All three scored in double-figures. Twede had 19, Dana had 12 and Clark had 14 as they found opportunities and capitalized on them.
But, that was before the Sleeping Giant finally woke from its slumber.
The footsteps slowly got louder as Kennedy cut the deficit to 39-33 and the beast was right in front of Santiam as the Trojans tied it up at 48 with 1:55 left after a Kleinschmit ‘And-One’. The senior Kleinschmit scored 13 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter as the 2A Giant hacked away at their host. Faced with this adversity can go a long way as league starts and we’re mere weeks from the postseason. Fighting and clawing just for an opportunity that they hope goes their way in the future.
“We just focused on shots. Many weren’t falling in the first half, we got down a ways and just tried to fight our way back. We came back from a lot and to get that close in the last quarter, we just gotta keep fighting and fighting back into games when we get down like that,” starts the Trojans Andrew Cuff said. “0-1 in league, we just got to fight our way. League is really important, we just got to fight those teams like Santiam and Regis and got to take it to them.”
Games like Open Door Christian Academy started to rear their ugly face for Santiam as the Trojans looked to complete the comeback. The Wolverines had a few games that could’ve gone their way like that ODCA game to start the season where they saw their lead slip away.
But like modern-day Warriors, they kept grinding. Not today as a Twede three broke the tie with 1:19 left and Xaiver Vital pushed the three-point lead to five moments later. Confidence was there as even Kennedy drew it back to one with 37.1 left after Kleinschmit’s 2-for-2 trip to the line. The Wolverines rode it out, icing it with three Vital free throws to seal the win. Staving off the monster breathing down their neck and denying the Trojans comeback from coming to completion at game’s end.
“It was tough, we’ve had a few close games where it was close in the fourth quarter and we lost them. It’s pretty good that we won one and win a close one. I knew we could do it, it was a matter of time,” Quinitin Clark said.
Boen and Luke Beyer each had seven points for Kennedy in the defeat as the Trojans host Colton on Friday, looking for their first league win of the season at home. The Wolverines look to improve to 2-0 in league play when they host Culver on Friday.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald