Pendleton — They were the consensus #1 team entering the season, lost stars Aly Herber and Dylainee Carmony for the season, and still ended up the top team in 2A entering the playoffs. Now, the Salem Academy Crusaders are advancing to the state championship, knocking off a good Bandon team in the state semifinals on Friday night in Pendleton. It was a collaborative effort to advance the Salem Academy, who had this as the expectation from the get-go of the season.
It was the “visiting” Bandon Tigers who threw the first punches, taking an early 5-0 lead on an Olivia Thompson three-point play and Makenna Vierck bucket. With a small hole early, the Crusaders quickly found offense with a 10-0 response from Aubrey Smith, Annabelle Brawley, and Bailey Pedersen, taking a 10-5 lead with 2:40 left in the first. Katelyn Senn and Grace Hinkle traded buckets afterwards as Salem Academy led 12-7 after one quarter. The Crusaders continued their scoring with Pedersen drilling a trey and Haley Ferry hitting a jumper to extend it to a 17-7 Salem Academy lead early in the second. Senn would hit a response bucket, but a 7-0 run fueled by Smith’s five points would extend it to a 24-9 Salem Academy lead.
Bandon and Salem Academy traded buckets down the stretch of the first half, with the Crusaders leading 26-13 at the half over Bandon. Bailey Pedersen led all scorers with nine points, Olivia Thompson had seven for the Tigers. Brawley hit a couple of shots to open the second half, extending the Crusaders advantage to 30-13 over Bandon. Makiah Vierck would stop the bleeding with a pair of treys for the Tigers, cutting it to a 32-19 game with 2:34 left in the third quarter. Bandon would shutout the Crusaders for the remaining few minutes, with Olivia Thompson getting four points to make it 32-23 entering the fourth.
Katelyn Senn kept the momentum going for Bandon, scoring a lay-in to make it 32-25 early in the final quarter, but Bailey Pedersen drilled a trey to make it a double-digit Salem Academy lead again 35-25. Makenna and Makiah Vierck worked to cut the game back down to 35-29, and Makiah Vierck would hit a trey with 1:19 left to make it 37-32 Salem Academy. With 35 seconds left, Olivia Thompson drilled a trey for Bandon, suddenly giving the Tigers an opportunity to take the lead down 37-35. However, the comeback would fall short and Bailey Pedersen hit four clutch free throws down the stretch to lift Salem Academy 41-35, advancing them to the 2A state championship on Saturday night. Pedersen led all scorers with 16 points and seven rebounds, Olivia Thompson had 11 points for Bandon on the night.