COOS BAY — Last year, Dayton’s girls basketball team saw a fourth-quarter lead slip away in the championship game at the Class 3A state tournament and missed out on a third straight title in a two-point loss to Blanchet Catholic.
The Pirates were determined to not let it happen again.
Top-ranked Salem Academy had erased most of a 10-point third-quarter Dayton lead and the Pirates had the ball with less than two minutes to go.
With the Crusaders trying to trap and get a steal, Jaden Moore found herself alone with the ball on the wing. Rather than try to take more time off the clock, she let fly.
The ball swished through the net and Dayton had the extra cushion it needed on the way to a 35-26 win that brought the title back to the Pirates.
“We were trying to run the clock a little,” Dayton coach Scott Spink said. “No, she wasn’t supposed to take that shot.
“I’m OK with it.”
That’s roughly what Spink told Moore after the game, too.
“He said, ‘I’m glad you made that. If you didn’t you were in trouble.’”
But she added that shooting the shot was a natural reaction.
“My coach told me he has confidence in me,” she said. “I shot with confidence.”
Moore’s three, and a layin a moment later on a pass from Malina Ray after a Salem Academy miss, were a rarity during a title game that was, for the most part, a defensive struggle.
Neither team made a field goal for nearly seven minutes to start the game and they both finished at under 30 percent overall.
“That was a defensive battle,” Spink said. “They play great defense. We play great defense. We knew that.
“We talked about team defense. We held them down. They held us down. Defense is effort. Our girls wanted it.”
Dayton trailed 6-4 after one quarter, but Kalina Rojas and Chloe Cisneros got going inside in the second and Moore hit a 3-pointer.
The Pirates led 16-11 at halftime and stretched the lead to 10 points a little over three minutes into the third quarter on a 3-pointer by Ray.
Salem Academy battled back, pulling within two with 5:40 to go in the game on a bucket by Aimee Smith. But that’s as close as the Crusaders got.
Since they shot just 1-for-19 from 3-point range — a trey by Grace Brown that was the first made field goal of the game — the Crusaders weren’t able to overcome the deficit.
But Salem Academy coach Ben Brown didn’t point to shooting as his team’s downfall.
“Where we lost the game was offensive rebounding,” he said. “They had 41 rebounds to our 23.”
The game featured two dynamic groups of seniors.
Dayton has seven seniors, including several who were part of all four runs to the title game.
Rojas and Shawnie Spink were regulars on the all-tournament team the past four years, and both unanimous selections this year. Ray, Moore and Gabby Shadden also have been key contributors for the past three years.
For Salem Academy, Smith and Sydney Brown also have been all-tournament team regulars, chosen for the first team again this year. Eva Hardy has been a three-year starter.
The big difference is that Dayton has three titles and Salem Academy has three heartbreaks. The Crusaders lost to the Pirates when the seniors were freshmen and then lost in the semifinals and finished third each of the past two years.
“That should have been the last four years of state title games,” Ben Brown said. “We didn’t get there the last two years.”
Dayton, meanwhile, had a sour taste in its mouth from getting there last year and coming up short.
“This year was all about redemption and making sure we could get to this point again,” Moore said.
And in the title game, she said, the Pirates took advantage of their chance.
“I can honestly say all my teammates gave 100 percent,” she said.
That was especially true on the defensive end, as Dayton stymied both Smith and Sydney Brown most of the game.
That was important since the Pirates were struggling on offense themselves, with Rojas, Spink and Ray shooting a combined 6-for-28 overall.
“We made up for it with defense,” Rojas said. “We were just trying to focus on defense.”
Rojas did scored a game-high 12 points, while Moore added 10. Spink had six, but four were free throws in the final moments. Chloe Cisneros had 11 rebounds.
Smith had nine points to lead Salem Academy and Grace Brown scored eight.
“We didn’t shoot the ball very well tonight,” Ben Brown said.
But he never questioned his team’s effort.
“I was proud of the girls tonight,” he said.