COOS BAY — The first game of the Class 3A girls state tournament at Marshfield took awhile to get into a flow.
In its first state appearance, Lakeview struggled mightily from the floor. Top-ranked Salem Academy didn’t have its best shooting game, either, but still rolled to a 43-18 blowout in the tournament’s opener Thursday.
“We definitely shook (the nerves) earlier than they did because we’ve been here before,” Salem Academy coach Ben Brown said. “But (in) our play-in game our offense wasn’t too great against Illinois Valley. And then you saw how the game went on the girls got into their normal flow.”
Aimee Smith led all scorers with 16 points for the Crusaders and Sydney Brown chipped in with 10 points and eight rebounds for Salem Academy. Alex Conley led Lakeview with eight points, all coming after halftime.
Eva Hardy got things going for Salem Academy with a 3-pointer at the 1:41 mark of the first quarter, then Smith followed shortly thereafter with a 3 of her own for a 9-2 Crusader lead.
Brown said the end-of-the-quarter 3s helped to relax his team, and Smith said the baskets gave the Crusaders a jolt of energy.
“Our team is just so close together, when someone makes something we’re so excited and pumped for that person,” Smith said. “So when someone makes 3s, that makes us just want to work even harder and push it."
Meanwhile, Lakeview had to overcome some early-game jitters. The Honkers had a great first possession, grabbing five offensive rebounds with six shot attempts. None went down, however, and Lakeview could only watch as Salem Academy steadily increased its lead.
Lakeview finished 8-of-42 from the floor and 0-of-13 from 3-point range. Kenzie Johnston, who grabbed two offensive rebounds, made one of her two putback attempts. Normally reliable 3-point shooter Macey Hargis was 0-of-5 from deep. Even Conley, who impressed Salem Academy with her size and skills, was 0-of-4 from 3-point land.
Lakeview coach Brandi Harris merely shrugged her shoulders at the poor shooting performance.
“That’s basketball,” she said.
Instead, she focused on the consistent effort given by the Honkers. Even while facing double-digit deficits starting in the first quarter, Lakeview never quit. Conley was active defensively, jumping passing lanes and forcing turnovers.
The junior led Lakeview to an upstart third-quarter that saw the Honkers outscore Salem Academy 6-5. For a period in that third quarter and into the fourth, the Crusaders weathered a nearly seven-minute long scoring drought. Lakeview cut the Crusader lead to 13 at 27-14 with Conley’s basket at the 7:02 mark in the final period, but a 7-0 Crusader run ended any hope of a Honker comeback.
Salem Academy knew Conley and Johnston together were a difficult duo to stop, so it decided to take the more predictable junior forward away and let Conley create from the perimeter. The plan worked, even as Lakeview got good shots — and missed nearly all of them.
“(Johnston) was a little more predictable than (Conley),” Brown said. “Just her style of game and (Conley) being so athletic, her game changes so quickly. But yeah, their shooting wasn’t terrific. And that’s a lot of nerves. Hopefully they’ll rebound from this game. That’s the hardest part: after you lose, how do you come back from a loss?”
Salem Academy plays rival Blanchet Catholic in the semifinals at 1:30 p.m. Friday after the Cavaliers edged Portland Adventist Academy. Blanchet Catholic is the only team to beat the Crusaders.
Lakeview goes to the consolation bracket and faces Portland Adventist at 9 a.m. in North Bend.