By Jeremy McDonald
MEDFORD, Ore.– It was another good match-up between West Salem and South Medford in their second match-up this season, the first going to the Titans at the Abby’s Tournament in Medford on December 29. It was that game that won West Salem the Abby’s Tournament and was the third win of their nine-game winning streak entering Wednesday’s evening game at South Medford High School.
And it came down to the wire once more. The Titans rallied back from a 37-30 deficit in the third quarter to take a brief 48-47 lead with 3:27 left in the game following a made basket from Connor Oretel.
Rebounding hurt West in this one, but here was the Titans battling hard down the wire with a Top-10 Panthers team in hostile territory.
“Definitely rebounds, we got to figure out how to box-out and finish plays. We gotta figure it out,” said Tommy Slack. “It feels good to play a Top-10 team, but we gotta keep it up.”
Slack finished with 12 points in the game, a heartbreaking defeat to South Medford that snapped West Salem’s winning streak at nine. The game went in favor of the home Panthers in the final three-plus minutes thanks to the strong rebounding game and using their top-dog in Boden Howell.
Howell scored 40 points Tuesday in South Medford’s 89-74 win over South Eugene and had followed that success with a 27-point output Wednesday as he helped push South Medford back ahead of the traveling Titans squad in the 60-51 victory.
It was a bittersweet ending to the game, but a good eye-opener as West Salem returns to Central Valley Conference play Friday at Sprague.
“It’ll help us tremendously. It’s a real bitter-taste in all our mouths right now, but we now know what it takes. We know we got to be mentally engaged for all 32 and it can’t be 31, can’t be 30 or 12 minutes…you got be mentally engaged the whole time,” said Jackson Leach. “Going forward, we’re going to be ready for our next league game or first-round, second-round playoff game. It’s a good battle.”
Leach broke the single-season assists record in Wednesday’s game as he finished with eight points in the defeat. Jimmy Lathen led West Salem with 13 points and Oretel scored 12 points in the game.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald