COOS BAY – Three years ago, the girls basketball team from Salem Academy High School came to the OSAA Class 3A state basketball tournament with a bunch of freshmen and showed to the state that they would be a state power the next four years.
Salem Academy dominated Coquille 36-17 Saturday afternoon to place third at the state tournament at Marshfield High School, the team’s third state tournament placing in as many years.
The Crusaders (26-2) were ranked No. 1 in the state for nearly the entirety of the season, but placing Saturday was the team’s third straight placing of third of higher at the state tournament.
“It means a lot to us,” said junior Aimee Smith, who scored 26 points and had 12 rebounds. “We work very hard in the offseason and in season.
“Just coming out here and getting third, second, third again, you never know what you’re going to get. It’s a lot of fun just coming here and playing with each other.”
Salem Academy corrected its most glaring deficiency from Friday’s semifinal loss to Blanchet early.
The Crusaders started the game shooting hot from the field – especially Smith who shot 7 of 11 from 3-point range – and led 22-6 at halftime.
“Yesterday wasn’t us,” said junior Sydney Brown, who scored nine points and had eight rebounds. “I feel like we came out today working even harder. We had heart in our game today.
“I think that’s what helped Aimee in her 3’s. She had heart. We didn’t just shoot because we were open, we were shooting to make it because we had a goal, we wanted to I guess play like us again.”
What’s promising for Salem Academy is that the team has no seniors.
Of course the rest of the teams that were in the 3A state semifinals this season – Blanchet, Coquille and Dayton – were junior dominated, but when the Crusaders play like they did Saturday, there are few teams that can stay with them.
“The girls did a good job,” Salem Academy coach Ben Brown said. “It was hard to get them refocused on this game since title hopes were dashed, but that’s basketball, and thankfully we’ll all be back next year, same girls, and we’ll work on the things we’re deficient in and try to get back here for a fourth state year.”
In the boys fourth place game, there were two miracle plays that happened for Salem Academy in the final 15 seconds of their game against Amity.
After Dylan Stearns hit two free throws to put Amity up 60-56 with 22 seconds left, Salem Academy senior Koby McCallum launched a long, off balance 3-pointer with 15 seconds that somehow went in.
But the officials called a simultaneous off-ball foul and awarded Salem Academy’s Kyle Haselbacher two free throws – which he made – and the Crusaders pulled off an unheard of five-point play to go up 61-60.
After a free throw by Amity’s Clint Hatch to tie the game at 61, Salem Academy senior Markell Moser was fouled while launching a 3-pointer with 1.9 seconds left.
Moser hit the first free throw then missed the next two, the last of which was rebounded by Amity’s Brandon Wilson, but he didn’t have time to get a shot up, and Salem Academy won 62-61.
“In both of those situations the ball just fell our way,” Salem Academy coach Ryan Kendall said. “It’s tough, the call, the foul on Koby’s 3, that’s so tough.
“These teams are battling so hard, both teams are battling so hard and playing so well that it’s tough that it came down to a call like that. It really is. Amity’s a great team. They’re such a great team.”
Salem Academy (23-5) placed fourth in the state tournament. Haselbacher scored 16 points, Skyler Williams and McCallum scored 12 and Rylan Stamback scored 11.
Amity (22-6) places sixth. Stearns scored 23 points.
bpoehler@StatesmanJournal.com or Twitter.com/bpoehler