It wasn’t the situation the North Salem High School boys basketball team figured it would be in Wednesday.
The Vikings looked like a contender to be in the championship game of the Central Valley Conference tournament a couple weeks ago, but instead found themselves in the fifth-place game against Sprague at South Salem High School.
Still, North Salem made the best of the situation.
Senior Malik Leaks scored 22 points and junior Anders Green got hot in the third quarter with 11 points in the period as the Vikings beat the Olympians 64-59 to place fifth in the tournament.
“We put ourselves in this situation, we talked about it before the game, you do the best with what you got at this point,” North Salem coach Jack Martino said. “Now that we’re here, you might as well go win it, we’ve got nothing else to do today. You’re free from 5:30 the rest of the way on tonight so while we’re here let’s win this stinking thing.
“It’s a well-coached team that (Sprague coach B.J. Dobrkovsky) always puts out there so we knew that we had to be at the top of our game.”
North Salem (13-12 overall) next plays in Saturday’s play-in round and is likely to host a game as the Vikings are No. 27 in the OSAA’s power rankings.
“Home advantage is huge,” said Leaks, the state’s top scorer this season. “Always want to play at our house and for our fans. The support is better. Home court advantage, you can’t really put it in words, but it’s just an advantage when you play at your house.”
Sprague, which lost its sixth consecutive game, drops to 7-18, and as the Olympians are No. 36 in the power rankings, they likely will be on the road in the play-in round.
Nick Parsell came off the bench to score 14 points for Sprague and Jack Frazier scored 11.
The Olympians took a 30-27 lead coming out of halftime on a Jeff Anderson basket, but Green went on an 8-2 run by himself and North Salem would never again trail.
“Malik’s a good distributor,” said Green, who finished with 17 points. “He seems to find everybody at the right time to get good shots up.”
Green is better known for his baseball prowess, but the fact is he has finished the basketball season strong the past two seasons.
His shooting Wednesday gave the Vikings the edge they needed.
“I’ve been at all his practices and I haven’t seen him shoot like that,” Martino said. “Big ones, they couldn’t be any bigger. I’ve never had a time where I said we have to get Anders the ball and we said that the whole third quarter.
“He works hard defensively, he does a lot of things right. If he could play basketball a little bit more — he’s so intense on baseball, which is understandable — but he could be a really good player if he could play basketball a little bit more.”
Sprague made shots to keep the game close in the fourth quarter, but North Salem went a perfect 16 for 16 from the free throw line in the second half, and the Vikings never gave up the lead.
“Hopefully we can carry momentum and get the confidence into the next game and hopefully the next couple games,” Green said.