RIGGINS — The Savages left no doubt as to the identity of their classification’s top contender, crushing Long Pin Conference foes Garden Valley and Horseshoe Bend in games — the last of the regular season — on Feb. 12, and Friday, Feb. 14, respectively.
Horseshoe Bend offered little resistance on Valentine’s Day, during which three Salmon River starters posted double-digit point totals; one of the visitors outscored the entire home team during a 62-22 rout.
The man of the match, Leighton Vander Esch, piled up 27 points, creating space for Terrun Zolman to shoot (13 points on six field goals) and Jimmy Shepherd to attack (12 points on two treys and six-for-six foul shooting).
Salmon River outscored Horseshoe Bend by 20 points in each half, including a 19-2 fourth quarter.
Garden Valley fared little better, falling 62-43 as the Savages celebrated senior night at SRHS on Feb. 12. Vander Esch went for 27 points and McCoy Hale put in 15 — and that despite playing within the constraints of some 80s-style shirts and shorts for the sake of a “retro” theme.
A slow start amid the festive atmosphere let the visitors hang within one possession, 13-10, through the first quarter. By halftime, SRHS led by double-digits.
The Savages have topped the statewide media poll since late-January.
Salmon River outscored its regular season opponents 1,252 to 782 on the year, or by 65-41 average score. The Savages allowed 60 or more points only twice, and lost both of those games. They won every time they scored 60-plus, and did so 13 times during the regular season.
Only one Salmon River opponent held the Savages under 55 points: Orofino, which SRHS defeated by a 50-49 tally in late December.
Salmon River scored a season-high 91 points at Meadows Valley on January 31, having allowed a season-low 18 points to the same team three weeks earlier.
Coming — Salmon River (17-2, 11-0 Long Pin Conference) will play the 1AD2 District III familiars against whom the Savages have qualified for the state tournament every year since 2010. The tournament, in McCall, will open with Salmon River-Council on Saturday, Feb. 22, and, with a win, SRHS would face Horseshoe Bend, Meadows Valley or Wilder, with a state berth at stake on Tuesday, Feb. 25.