COOS BAY — Aimee Smith had a phenomenal shooting effort to lead Salem Academy to the third-place trophy over an illness-ravaged Coquille squad 36-17 Saturday at Marshfield High School.
Smith lit up Coquille’s zone, a defense the Red Devils had never used all season, but needed because of a bug that hammered the team Saturday morning.
Smith went 7-for-11 from 3-point range, scored 26 points and grabbed 12 rebounds for the Crusaders, who beat the Red Devils in the third-place game for the second straight year.
“We wanted to come out and push your hardest and give your all,” Smith said.
The Crusaders were coming off an emotionally tough loss to rival Blanchet Catholic in the semifinals on Friday, but got off to a quick start when Smith nailed two straight 3-pointers and Sydney Brown scored inside for an 8-0 lead.
It was clear from the start the Crusaders were getting a Coquille squad that wasn’t close to full strength.
Nearly all the players were hit with a stomach bug Saturday morning, and only a couple were at full strength.
Gone was the Red Devils’ patented full-court pressure, or even the ability to play man-to-man defense in the half court.
“We haven’t played a 2-3 defense all year,” Coquille coach Tim GeDeros said. “I know it’s one all the JV kids know how to run. We just stayed simple.”
GeDeros went to his bench early and often, and deeper than normal with much of the regular rotation weakened at best.
Freshman Mia Ruiz, sophomore Haley Van Pelt and junior Savannah Salazar, who normally got minutes only in the fourth quarter of games that weren’t close, combined for 28 minutes Saturday. Regular starter Tori Renard and top sub Morgan Baird had 15 and 11, respectively, while Halle Layton and Josey Kaufman, also in the eight-player regular rotation, combined for less than three.
Darian Wilson, the Mountain Valley Conference MVP, managed 19 in her normal fiercely competitive manner, but missed all her field goals and two of her four free throws and was wiped out after the game, barely able to stand for the final team huddle in the locker room.
Of the three healthy Red Devils, Tara Edwards played all 32 minutes, McKenna Wilson would have if she hadn’t fouled out in the fourth and Abbey Dieu was in for 26.
“I’m super proud,” GeDeros said of his team. “There’s not much you can do about it but go out and compete as hard as you can.”
“We left it all out there,” McKenna Wilson said. “It’s not like we weren’t trying.”
But aside from a short baseline jumper by Renard, Coquille also never made a field goal that wasn’t right at the basket, and missed a bunch more close shots while hitting 18 percent overall for the game, and also hit just 3-for-11 on free throws.
The Red Devils did take care of the basketball, with only six turnovers, and managed to force 14 Salem Academy miscues in their zone defense and the few moments they did go to man-to-man.
Dieu led Coquille with six points and Wilson scored four on two fast-break baskets off steals.
Smith’s total of 26 points was almost as much as every other player in the game combined. Brown had nine points for the Crusaders and Kara Standridge hit a free throw.
Salem Academy had entered as the top seed, but was denied a spot in the final by the eventual-champion Cavaliers. Coquille pushed two-time champion Dayton into the fourth quarter before the Pirates prevailed in their semifinal.
But between that game and Saturday morning, the illness hit and Saturday’s third-place game became a mismatch.
Later in the day, Brown was named to the all-tournament first team and Smith and Darian Wilson were named to the second team.
The Red Devils finished arguably the best season in school history with a record of 26-3, the losses to Salem Academy, Dayton and Class 4A Valley Catholic. Along the way, they beat a bunch of other top Class 4A clubs, went unbeaten in the Mountain Valley Conference and won Marshfield’s Les Schwab South Coast Holiday Basketball Tournament.
“We had such a strong season,” McKenna Wilson said. “We were just bomb-diggety.”
“It’s a tough way to end, but it was definitely a good season,” she said.
GeDeros already was looking ahead, with senior standouts Edwards, Renard and Darian Wilson graduating but a strong group back.
“It’s a fun group to coach,” he said. “It’s been a great year.
“I can’t wait until next year.”