COOS BAY — After a heartbreaking loss to Cascade Christian on Thursday, the Salem Academy Crusaders boys basketball team righted the ship Friday morning, cruising to a 49-42 victory over the Horizon Christian Hawks.
While the game remained competitive throughout, the final score is not indicative of the Crusaders’ dominance.
Salem Academy lead 42-25 going into the fourth quarter before a late run from Horizon Christian — including 11 points from Cody Wyatt in the final two minutes — closed the gap to seven.
But by the time the Hawks' offense seemed to wake up, it was too late and the 17-point deficit proved too much to overcome.
“It just wasn't our game,” said sophomore guard Conner Zralka, who led his team in scoring for the first half with eight points but was shut out in the second.
After a fast-paced first quarter filled with physical and sloppy play, the two teams were neck and neck, with Salem clinging to 10-9 lead after the first eight minutes.
Then the Crusaders turned on the afterburners.
Seniors Skyler Williams, Rylan Stamback and Kyle Haslebacher combined for 23 of Salem Academy’s 29 points in the first half and 15 in the second quarter alone.
“They battled,” Salem Academy coach Ryan Kendall said, adding the trio had played together since the seventh grade. “None of them care who scores as long as the team scores. It’s a testament to their unselfishness and their heart.”
Williams paced all scorers with 15 points, seven rebounds and three steals on 5 of 8 shooting and 3 of 4 from 3-point range.
He was followed by Haslebacher and Stamback who chipped in 11 points and 10, respectively.
Despite being one of the smaller players on the court, Williams said he tried not to let size limit his ability to make plays.
“I just like to put a lot of heart in it,” he said. “I like to give my team second chances; that’s what I’m good at.”
Kendall praised Williams’ instincts and hustle as contributing to his great play.
“The kid’s got ups,” he said. “He’s instinctive. He can find the ball and he can get up and get it.”
While shooting came easy for the Crusaders in the first half — 11 of 21 from the floor, 5 of 11 from three — the Hawks struggled to find the net until the final quarter of play.
Horizon Christian shot a paltry 5 of 15 from the floor and hit just one of their nine 3-point attempts after hitting 65-percent from 3-point range in a close loss to rival Dayton on Thursday.
“We were ice cold,” Hawks coach Dave Brown said. “We usually shoot the 3 pretty well but Salem played real good defense.”
For the majority of the game, Horizon Christian struggled to penetrate the Crusaders' half-court defense and turned the ball over nine times in the first half to a stingy Salem full-court press.
The defensive pressure ultimately lead to 19-6 second quarter run that put the Crusaders up 14 at the half.
Horizon Christian managed to shoot better in the second half — 9 of 20 overall — but many of those makes came in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter when the game was already out of hand.
The loss eliminates a young Hawks team that starts just one senior from the tournament.
“We lose a few key players but we are a young team and this is a learning experience,” Zralka said.
Salem Academy moves on to the fourth-place game in the consolation bracket.
They will face Amity on Saturday at Marshfield in a No. 4 vs. No. 2 matchup at 9:45 a.m.
“We live to play another game,” Salem Academy coach Kendall said. "Sure last night was a heart breaker but we came in fourth and if we can come out fourth, that’s great. Let’s go 2-1 on the weekend.”