Photo by Andrew Ottoson
Salmon River’s Lotus Harper took on a big role late in the season, stepping up to conduct the SHRS offense after junior standout Chevelle Shepherd went down with an injury. Harper scored the game-high, 16 points, during the Savages play-in loss to Deary on Feb. 10.
As of Wednesday, February 14, 2018
GRANGEVILLE Salmon River misfired on two point-blank jump shots – either of which would have given them a one-point lead with less than a minute left in their play-in game Saturday, Feb. 10, at GHS – and the Deary girls moved on to state by a 41-38 final score.
The contest began with bad passes and nervous play, and it turned frantic during the final two minutes.
But in the absence of junior standout Chevelle Shepherd, who was in street clothes due to a late-season leg injury, a Salmon River freshman nearly led the Savages to state.
Lotus Harper finished with a game-high 16 points, including a foul shot that cut Deary’s lead to one with 2:22 remaining – which turned out to be the Savages’ last point of the season.
After an SRHS timeout with 48 seconds to go, Deary tried to stall but ended up taking and missing a short-range shot with about 30 seconds left. Then Deary came up with the offensive rebound, and in the course of bringing the ball out from under the goal, a Deary guard dribbled into being double-teamed near the half-court line, where Salmon River came away with a steal. A long diagonal pass then found an SRHS player cutting toward the key. Pressured by Deary’s retreating defenders, her shot struck the rim and bounced toward the right elbow, where SRHS rebounded it and got another crack at a late lead-changer with about 20 seconds remaining.
Deary rebounded the second miss, then scored a layup on a runout with about 15 seconds left – enough time for the SRHS girls to work out a three-point shot, which also could have tied it late. But having survived their district tournament with a buzzer-beater, Salmon River’s long jumper with about five
seconds left rimmed out.
The game began with a run of bad pass turnovers by both teams, but after Harper scored a three-point shot and an old-fashioned three-point play, Salmon River settled down and built a 10-0 lead before the Deary girls found their calm. Deary closed within four during the second quarter, but Salmon River led by nine at halftime. Deary cut that lead with defensive stops that fueled fast breaks during the third quarter.
Deary briefly pulled ahead, 29-28, but Salmon River immediately regained the lead, then pushed it to 33-29 on a hoop by Payton Branstetter, who finished with eight points.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Deary took control when Mustangs senior Megan Beyer (who scored a team-high 13) made both ends of a one-and-one, good for a 37-35 lead with 4:17 left in the game – and, as it turned out, Salmon River’s season.
“I told them not to remember the season by the last game, but as a whole,” coach Paula Tucker told the Free Press Tuesday morning, Feb. 13. “They each stepped up to try and make up for losing Chevelle and over all did a great job. I was very happy with the growth and maturity of the freshman – in particular Lotus Harper who took on leadership of the offense. Emily Diaz worked hard for us under the basket and led us in our defensive presses, and seniors Payton Branstetter and Miranda Hofflander stepped up especially on defense which helped us win games we otherwise wouldn’t have. Of course, they have their exciting, last second ‘thrill of victory’ memory that they will always remember.”
The Savages finished with a 16-7 overall record.
“These girls have been on a physical and emotional roller coaster for most of the season – with Charlie’s accident, Chevelle’s injury, school closures for the flu, learning to play without Chevelle…and because of the flu and other injuries we sometimes had to play with five or six kids. They ended the regular season tied for first, but with tie-break went into the district tourney third, so had to play four games which took a toll physically. But I think the emotional drain was even more of a factor by the time we played Deary – they battled but just didn’t have much left to give.”