Tuesday’s game was a statement by the South Salem High School’s girls basketball team.
The Saxons are for real.
Largely unheralded South Salem built a huge lead in the second quarter with excellent long-range shooting and tough defense on their home floor on their way to a 56-33 win against No. 8-ranked West Salem.
The result of the game, which was South Salem’s third straight win, puts the Saxons (3-0 Central Valley Conference, 10-7 overall) in first place in the league and makes them the favorite in the CVC going forward.
“We’re trying to win the league and to have a game advantage against the team that we’re most in competition with, that’s huge,” South Salem coach Nick McWilliams said.
“There’s that mental barrier that you want to overcome. We’ve beat West each of the last two years, but we need to be able to come into each game with them thinking we have a good chance to beat them.”
West Salem’s eight-game win streak was snapped with the loss, which dropped the Titans to 2-1 in the CVC and 13-3 overall.
Titans senior Mary Savoy led the team with 12 points, but during the crucial second quarter she was sitting on the bench after picking up her third foul with 6:43 left in the first half.
The Saxons took advantage with a 13-0 run, and South Salem’s advantage seldom dwindled into single digits from then on.
“That changed the game a lot because she’s one of their main scorers, if not their main scorer so when she’s out their whole team, it’s a hard adjustment for both teams,” said South Salem junior Janessa Bodine, who scored 13 points.
“We knew what we had to do and I’m sure they had to alter their game plan for it as well.”
South Salem shot a killer 6 of 7 from 3-point range, including Bodine going 3 for 3 and Katie McWilliams, who led the Saxons with 14 points, going 2 for 3.
But the Saxons also excelled defensively by keeping the Titans from their up-tempo offense.
“I think more than that once we got the lead we really took care of the ball and took some good shots,” Nick McWilliams said. “Beyond that I really feel like our defense won the game. We held them to 30-some points.
“I think that that’s always been our philosophy, start with defense and usually our defense turns into our offense. But in this game we really wanted to make sure that they weren’t able to get to the basket and get easy shots. That worked for us and we also didn’t want to get into too fast of a game because the twins (Mary and Irma Savoy), you give them any open court they’re tough to stop.”
West Salem won the league championship the past two years and every year is the team to beat in the CVC.
“With them they’re an extremely competitive team and same with us,” Bodine said. “We have a pretty good matchup against them every season. We both come out and want to win it.”
West Salem moves on to host North Salem at 7 p.m. Friday and at the same time South Salem will host Sprague.
bpoehler@StatesmanJournal.com, (503) 399-6701 or follow at twitter.com/bpoehler