Forgive the South Salem girls basketball team if they don’t exactly remember the school’s last trip to the state tournament.
The last time a Saxons girls team advanced to the big stage was 1997 when most of the current players were infants or toddlers, and a few other hadn’t even been born.
All that’s in the past however after No. 8 South Salem (22-5) defeated No. 9 West Linn (18-7) 62-44 in the second round of the state playoffs at home Friday.
The Saxons will open the state tournament at the Moda Center in Portland on Wednesday against No. 1 South Medford.
Three underclassmen combined to score 54 points to carry the Saxons to the victory over West Linn, led by 21 from junior Katie McWilliams.
“It means everything” to get to the state tournament, McWilliams said. “I’ve been waiting since freshman year and it’s finally here. It’s amazing.”
Sophomore Jordan Woodvine added 18 points for South Salem while freshman Evina Westbrook pitched in with 15.
“We were really nervous before the game, but playing at home knowing we could go to the state tournament if we won this game pumped us up,” said Woodvine.
Friday’s game was the third meeting this season between the schools but it was clear from the start that the Saxons were ready to seize their moment in their most important game of the year.
McWilliams, Woodvine and Westbrook all scored in the first quarter to give the Saxons a 12-6 lead after one period and the trio broke open the game in the second quarter by extending a run that wasn’t stopped until the host team had scored 13 consecutive points.
Within that surge was seven straight points by Woodvine.
The sophomore wing started with a spinning lay-up, followed that with a pair of jumpers and finished by making a free throw she made a steal and was fouled on a breakaway.
By the time West Linn stopped the run, South Salem had built a 13-point lead which jumped to 19 at halftime when McWilliams nailed a three-pointer right before the buzzer. The Lions made a push to get back in the game in the second half, cutting the Saxons lead to 11 with three minutes left in the third quarter but a three by McWilliams to start the fourth brought South Salem’s lead back up to 14 and the hosts coasted from there.
“I knew that (getting to the state tournament) was something we could do with this group but we had to play well and we did,” said Saxons head coach Nick McWilliams. “That was one of our best efforts of the year.”
As the game ended, South Salem players ran onto the court and hugged, where they were quickly joined by students.
“This is the biggest crowd we’ve ever had for a game,” said Woodvine. “I hope they all come up to Portland with us.”
In between congratulatory hugs from fans, Katie McWilliams tried to put into perspective South Salem’s long state tournament absence.
“I was like one year old, so it’s pretty incredible.”
WL– Sidney Kolasinski 15, Hughes 11, Haskin 11, Johnson 4, Landis 3, Malvar, Fulcher, Enders-Smith. Totals 17 6-8 44.
SS– Jordan Woodvine 21, McWilliams 18, Westbrook 15, Moorman 3, Bodine 3, Donovan 2, McNally, Wasser. Totals 19 18-22 62.
|West Linn||6||7||16||15||— 44|
|South Salem||12||20||10||20||— 62|
3-point goals: WL 4 (Kolasinski 3, Landis 1); SS 6 (McWilliams 2, Woodvine, Moorman, Westbrook, Bodine). Rebounds: SS 27 (Donovan, Westbrook 6). Assists: SS 8 (Westbrook 4).