The scoreboard said they lost the game, but just being back on the court feels like a victory these days for the West Salem High School girls basketball team.
Overshadowed by a sex abuse scandal that resulted in one assistant coach being sent to prison last month, and the abrupt resignation of the team’s longtime head coach in October, the action on the court has been the least discussed part of the Titans’ program for the better part of a year.
Much to the relief of the Titans’ players, coaches and supporters, that’s starting to change.
On Friday the Titans dropped their second game to start the season, this time 54-50 to the Tualatin Timberwolves.
Sophomore Delaney Henery led the Titans with 16 points and fellow sophomore Paige Whipple added 13.
Junior point guard Taylor Gunesch scored seven and said the new year brings a clean slate.
“We’re not thinking about the past,” said Gunesch. “We’re all here as a team and we’re all here for each other.”
New head coach Terry Williams, echoed Gunesch’s feelings.
“I don’t know much about all that… to me everything’s new and it’s all forward from here,” said Williams, who retired last year as the coach of Corban University’s women’s team. “Whatever all that was it really means nothing.”
West Salem led the whole way Friday until the fourth quarter when Tualatin’s Hannah Self, who led the T-Wolves with 16 points, got hot near the end of the third period and into the fourth.
Self carried the visitor’s with eight points, and gave Tualatin its first lead of the game with 6:30 to play with a bucket in the paint to put her team ahead 40-39.
The lead changed hands seven times in the final quarter, and remained tied up to the final 2:20.
Gunesch quickly regained the lead for West Salem with a baseline jumper, and put the Titans ahead 45-44 for the second time with a pair of free throws with 4:41 remaining.
Whipple gave West Salem its final edge with 2:35 left on two free throws made by Whipple, but the T-Wolves made four of their own shots from the foul line down the stretch and got a basket from Self to put Tualatin ahead for good.
The Titans led by as many as eight points in the first half but saw their lead dwindle to five, 24-19, at halftime.
Williams said his team is still learning how to put a team away.
“I don’t think our players believe in themselves yet, so I think when they realized they were in the lead at halftime they didn’t have the confidence to come out and put a good team away, but that will come,” Williams said.
Win or lose, at West Salem, at least it’s all about the basketball again.