McKay’s Tristen Wilson (24) has his shot blocked by West Salem’s Jacob Kizer and Nate Hall (32) during their Greater Valley Conference game on Friday, Jan. 9, 2015, Salem, Ore.
Friday’s game was a metaphor for the season of the West Salem High School boys basketball team.
After a shaky start, the Titans came back in the second half to beat McKay 50-43 at home in a Greater Valley Conference game.
For a West Salem team that started the season 1-4 and is now 7-5 after winning its third straight — including 3-2 in the GVC — finishing well is going to be the key.
“I think we are where we want to be now,” West Salem junior point guard Andy Armstrong said. “We’re starting to jell more as a team in the beginning. We were in football mode some of us, most of us, and now we’re not.
“We’re playing like basketball players, we’re playing as a team, too, and we’re getting a better idea of how to play with each other. It’s coming together well and we’re happy with where we are right now, but we still got to get better.”
McKay (2-2 GVC, 4-8 overall) threw an intriguing wrinkle at West Salem early, and it worked to perfection.
The Royal Sots started the game in a 3-2 zone defense — McKay is normally a strict man-to-man defense team — and built an 11-2 lead late in the first quarter when Demaris Bailey hit a 3-pointer.
“We mixed it up, and I’m pretty stubborn and don’t like to mix it up very often and we did it tonight and had some success with it early,” McKay coach Dean Sanderson said. “Our kids, I couldn’t be prouder to be a Royal Scot today.
“We battled. I thought we outscrapped them, we outtoughed, and that’s what we have to be. That’s what we have to be, that’s what McKay has to be. We have to outscrap, we have to outtough to give ourself a chance to win, and we did that tonight.”
West Salem tied the game at 15 on a 3-pointer by Jonathan Terleski with 2:25 left in the first half, but McKay led 19-17 at halftime.
Armstrong gave the Titans a brief lead to start the second half on a 3-pointer, but McKay went on a 7-0 lead – including five points by Tristen Wilson – and was up 26-20.
“Tristen’s put in a ton of work, he’s worked harder than anybody at getting better, and he went into a stretch there where he really made some shots and finished at the rim against their bigger players, and that was great,” Sanderson said.
“And then had a stretch where he turned the ball over a couple times, but he battled through that.”
West Salem went on a 10-0 run to close the third quarter and took the lead for good when Jacob Kizer hit a rebound basket with 2:02 to go in the third.
In that stretch, West Salem was more aggressive on offense and rebounded the ball better to take control of the game.
“They had some guys that crashed the boards well,” said Armstrong, who scored 11 points. “I think when we got back in the game we felt a little more comfortable and the pressure was on them, if not ourselves so we could play a little more confident, more composed.
“I think it just played into our favor in that part of the game.”
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