For most high school boys basketball programs to start the season 4-9 and climb to a .500 overall record with two games remaining in the league season, it would be considered a stellar comeback.
When it’s South Salem, it’s a little different.
The Saxons were the Greater Valley Conference champions the past three years and have placed in the OSAA Class 6A state tournament in each of those seasons, and were expected to contend for the league championship this season despite significant losses in personnel.
They’re now playing like the team they had the potential to be all along.
Tuesday’s 81-71 home win upset McNary gave the Saxons their third win in four games and improves the team to 8-6 in the Greater Valley Conference, 11-11 overall and into fourth place in the league.
McNary, which was led by 19 points from Matthew Ismay, remains third in league with a 9-5 league record.
Jaden Nielsen-Skinner scored 17 points and Tyler Wadleigh scored 13, but it was the role players who are making the largest impact for the Saxons late in the season.
Freshman guard Trey Galbraith scored 17 points, including hitting five 3-pointers, and sophomore post Ryan Brown, a transfer from Stayton who spent most of the season on JV, scored 25 points, including an impressive dunk.
“We’ve been preaching all season about finding some team unity and trust in each other. And the roles players have stopped playing tentative,” South Salem coach Tyler Allen said. “We’ve had box scores of Skinny and Tyler with 25 and 26 respectively and then you look down at Gavin had eight points and everyone else zeroes.
“Tonight what you saw was role players, a freshman, a sophomore, who didn’t play scared. They stepped up to the moment. That was our message before the game is we can’t play tentative.”
bpoehler@StatesmanJournal.com or Twitter.com/bpoehler
South Salem 81, McNary 71
McNary: Matthew Ismay 19, Goff 16, Harvey 16, Garvey 8, Neitzel 5, Cavell 4, A. Martin 3, K. Martin, Jones.
South Salem: Ryan Brown 25, Nielsen-Skinner 17, Galbraith 17, Wadleigh 13, Baughman 4, Vogt 3, Bowersox 1, Ellis 1, Broadus, Low, Vinas McCall.
MCN 18 13 11 28-71
SS 21 19 15 26-81
3-point goals: McNary 1 (Neitzel); South Salem 10 (Galbraith 5, Nielsen-Skinner 2, Wadleigh 2, Vogt).