BY ROB WITZEL
Defense has been Salt Fork’s strength all season long, but at Wednesday night’s Regional game they had their best outing of the year. In an overtime win, the Storm was able to overcome an eight-point deficit in the fourth quarter, force overtime, and then shut out the host Chrisman Cardinals leading to a 41-35 win.
“When you play in an overtime game and hold a team to 35 points, that’s pretty good especially against a team that can shoot and are in their own gym. We did a great job. I credit our defense for the win on this one,” Storm Coach Andrew Johnson said.
Midway through the fourth, Salt Fork trailed 35-29 and it looked as if their post season life may be dwindling.
“We all knew down by eight with four minutes left that this would be our last game if we didn’t pick it up,” junior Max Stutsman said.
The four minute mark was also the last time Salt Fork allowed Chrisman to score. Chrisman tried to wind down the clock, but Salt Fork kept the pressure and forced turnovers.
First, Alec Dutton hit a 3-pointer to cut away at the lead. Then Stutsman scored three on a layup, foul and free throw to make it even closer. The gap closed completely after Dutton added two more with 1:30 left in regulation. Salt Fork would control the ball, attempt a buzzer beater but it took overtime to settle this game.
“Coach has been preaching all year that our defense was going to win us games,” Stutsman said “In the fourth quarter, we picked our defense and forced them into turnovers and bad shots. Then we’d capitalize on the offense side”
The Salt Fork defense continued their pressure, but Chrisman’s defense didn’t allow points either. Salt Fork would go 6-for-6 from the free throw line, the only points in overtime.
“We survived and now we’re looking to the next one,” Johnson said. “The kids pushed through and made plays when they needed to. I’m very proud of their effort and didn’t give up. They could have easily packed it in and gave up and they didn’t.”
The game did not start out well for the Storm. Chrisman earned the first two points before Salt Fork responded with four to take the lead. The Cardinals took over with a 7-0 run and they didn’t trail until overtime. At the end of the first quarter, Chrisman was in the driver’s seat with a 12-8.
In the second quarter, Chrisman scored two 3-pointers making it a 10-point lead. Both teams were tough on defense, with an 8-4 quarter score in favor of the Cardinals, Chrisman would go into the half with a 20-12 lead.
Offensively it wasn’t our best game,” Johnson said. “We did not shoot well and didn’t execute well. Credit Chrisman’s defense though, they played very good on the ball defense and help side defense. It made our ability to move the ball around very difficult.”
Salt Fork outscored Chrisman in both the third and fourth quarter. They cut the lead in the third with a 12-8 score, and in the fourth 11-7 before forcing overtime and winning.
Leading the Storm was Stutsman who had 15 points. Behind him were Ross Leonard and Dutton each with 9.
For Chrisman, Chris Hoult led the team with 11 and was followed by Chase Anderson and Ty Bolen, who each had nine.
Salt Fork will face Shiloh Friday night at Chrisman High School for the Regional Championship. Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m.