Basketball

South Salem rallies to defeat Sunset, reach state semifinals

PORTLAND – The Saxons got a glimpse of what life would be without Evina Westbrook on the basketball court.

They learned that it’s a lot easier with her.

South Salem High School’s All-Everything senior point guard was the recipient of aggressive, physical defense on the part of Sunset in Thursday’s first round of the OSAA Class 6A state tournament at the Chiles Center.

Sunset's Mary Kay Naro guards South Salem's Evina Westbrook as the Saxons defeat Sunset 55-48 in OSAA Class 6A quarterfinals on Thursday, March 9, 2017, at the Chiles Center at the University of Portland.

Sunset’s Mary Kay Naro guards South Salem’s Evina Westbrook as the Saxons defeat Sunset 55-48 in OSAA Class 6A quarterfinals on Thursday, March 9, 2017, at the Chiles Center at the University of Portland.

So physical that Westbrook had to come out of the game for over four minutes late in the third quarter with a bloody nose after taking an elbow to her nose.

In the time she was off the court, the Apollos went on a 14-3 run to cut South Salem’s lead to 39-35.

When she came back in the game, the Saxons went on a 10-0 run to put the game back out of reach on the way to a 55-48 win.

“I mean, whenever you get hit you got to come back up,” Westbrook said. “You got to get back up and continue to play hard. That’s one thing that I kind of stand by. Just because you get hurt doesn’t mean you have to come out the game.

“I never want to come out of the game, even for an injury. I just try to tough it out as usual. I knew every team is going to come at you.”

Sunset did, but it was in vain.

The next team to take a shot at the reigning state player of the year and the two-time defending state champion Saxons (24-3) is Oregon City at 8:15 p.m. Friday night in the state semifinals.

What the Pioneers could have taken away from South Salem’s win against Sunset was that everything South Salem does – especially its defense – is predicated on Westbrook.

“E is a big part of our defense, too,” South Salem coach Nick McWilliams said. “I think that teams are somewhat fearful a little a bit when she’s out there and so they kind of slow down, but when she goes out, they’re like, let’s take advantage of it.

“Our kids hung tough. I’ll have to admit I was looking out the door a couple times to see if Superman was going to come back to the rescue, and fortunately she did.”

South Salem held Sunset to 37 percent (17 of 46) shooting from the field Thursday, including 27 percent (6 of 22) in the first half.

Though Sunset relied on its physical defense, South Salem’s defense relied on tough man-to-man defense and rotating on screens.

“We were definitely talking more on defense because they set a lot of screens and we practiced getting through them and switching and communicating that,” said South Salem senior Dani Harley, who scored 15 points.

Westbrook scored 25 points – including 18 in the first half – had seven rebounds and four assists.

But she also proved to any doubters – not that there are any left – what she truly is capable of.

“I’m not worried, but when I come back in I know what I have to do,” said Westbrook, who has signed to play in college at Tennessee. “I have faith in them, at least they can keep the lead and work hard while I’m gone at least. My part was easy.”

bpoehler@StatesmanJournal.com or Twitter.com/bpoehler

MORE HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL COVERAGE:

Cascade girls basketball loses to Seaside in state quarterfinals

West Salem earns first win at state in school history

The athlete of the week winner is announced

BOX SCORE

South Salem 55, Sunset 48

Sunset: Rose Pflug 14, Maddie Muhlheim 14, Carpenter 13, Naro 5, Ragan 2, Wingo, Salness, Mead. Totals 17 8-19 48.

South Salem: Evina Westbrook 25. Harley 15, Winder 10, Hersh 5, Hicks, Stafford, Ferry. Totals 19 11-12 55.

SUN 11 6 15 16-48

SS 19 13 7  16-55

3-point goals: Sunset 6 (Mulhlheimm 2, Carpenter 2, Plug, Naro); South Salem 6 (Harley 3, Westbrook 2, Hersh).

South Salem's Morgan Winder and the Saxons take on Sunset in OSAA Class 6A quarterfinals on Thursday, March 9, 2017, at the Chiles Center at the University of Portland.

South Salem’s Morgan Winder and the Saxons take on Sunset in OSAA Class 6A quarterfinals on Thursday, March 9, 2017, at the Chiles Center at the University of Portland.