Grizzlies struggle in second half, fall to Titans

By ROBERT HUSSEMAN

Of the News-Register

SALEM – Before the third quarter of their Class 6A Greater Valley Conference game at West Salem, the McMinnville girls basketball team huddled together.

Grizzlies coach Sean Coste and the McMinnville assistants had stepped away. The players formed a tight circle. Senior forward Audrey McMillan delivered the address.

“Audrey really stepped up as a leader,” junior forward Elizabeth Logsdon said. “She said we just need to stick together. She said we needed to work hard, get every rebound as fast as we can.”

The first half played out along familiar lines for McMinnville – moments of strong defense paired with inconsistent offense. West Salem held a 24-13 lead, but the Grizzlies played with purpose after breaking the huddle.

Junior forward Hannah Smith made the first basket of the second half, a three-pointer – not an insignificant accomplishment. Against McKay and David Douglas last week, Mac had made a total of six three-pointers, but the Grizzlies failed to convert from beyond the arc against McNary and in the first half against the Titans.

Freshman point guard Kayla Heuberger drove to the basket on the next possession; her effort was rewarded with a made layup and the foul shot, which she sank. West Salem bumped the lead back to 10 points on a Paige Whipple basket-and-the-foul, but Smith drew a foul of her own and sank two free throws.

Those would be the last points McMinnville would score in the next 6 minutes, 30 seconds of gameplay. West Salem scored 17 points in the third quarter and rolled in the fourth quarter, eventually winning 53-34.

“I think this started with a lot of kids moving into different positions tonight,” Coste said. “Our offense looked really out of sync. We ended up forcing shots, forcing plays. We turned the ball over too much.”

Junior Brittney Freeman sat out the game after breaking her nose against McNary on Feb. 13, and Smith started in her place. Guards Makayla Khatewoda and Ashley Rhoads received additional minutes off the bench as Coste juggled his lineups within the game.

That could not totally account for McMinnville’s 18 turnovers and 13-for-42 shooting performance on the evening. Smith’s three-pointer was the only one of 12 attempts from beyond the arc converted. The 5-foot-9 junior led Mac with seven points; Logsdon scored six points and Alix Williams added five points.

Most discouragingly for the Grizzlies, West Salem scored 18 points on second-chance opportunities. The Titans cleaned up the offensive glass to such an extent that, on a single possession in the third quarter, West Salem grabbed six offensive rebounds. (The Titans failed to score a point in the possession.)

“Some of it, we get unlucky. Some of it, we’re just not in the right position to get it,” Logsdon said of Mac’s rebounding woes. “We were maybe not as aggressive.”

Whipple finished with 13 points for the Titans, while guard Emilee Silbernagel scored 11 points.

McMinnville (10-12, 5-9 GVC) is the sixth-place team in the Greater Valley Conference, while West Salem (12-10, 8-7 GVC) has a tenuous hold onto fourth place and the league’s final playoff spot. Friday night was, effectively, an elimination game for the Grizzlies.

“We just looked really lost in different places,” Coste said.

“People, when they watch that game, they wouldn’t know how hard these guys try. They really work hard. They’re great teammates.”

And there is much left to play for. Five seniors – McMillan, Khatewoda, Rebecca Noble, Amanda Ricker and Rachel Legard – have every opportunity to end their careers on a high note, starting with tonight’s matchup at South Salem at 6:45 p.m. Senior night will take place Tuesday at The Furnace against Sprague.

“We want them to feel,” Logsdon said, “like they’ve accomplished a lot this season.”

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