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Second-half explosion propels Pirates into quarterfinals

Feb. 28—Box Score

At Spokane Arena

PIRATES 70, DRAGONS 47

Adna15 7 24 24 — 70

St. George's15 7 11 14 — 47

Adna (70) — B. Salme 28, Muller 15, Neilson 9, Johnson 9, Humphrey 6, T. Salme 3

St. George's (47) — Zarlingo 11, Pierce 10, Jones 7, Gu 7, Witmer 5, Parker 4, Wirthlin 3

SPOKANE — The first half of Adna's Round of 12 matchup against St. George's was an old-school, defensive battle. Both teams shot less than 35 percent from the floor, and the two sides were deadlocked at 22 at the break.

The second half of Wednesday's matchup was a high-flying, one-sided showcase, as Adna scored 48 points in the final 16 minutes to run away with a 70-47 victory, one that puts them in the state quarterfinals.

"We didn't do anything differently," Adna coach Luke Salme said with a smile. "Basketball is a weird game."

The Pirates started scoring with ease in the third quarter, and while the Dragons were able to keep up early in the third, they quickly became visibly frustrated. They ran into foul trouble, and Adna took advantage with a 16-2 run to open up a 15-point lead late in the third.

The Pirates only grew more confident in the fourth, as they extended their lead to 20 with just under five minutes to play.

"We had guys go make plays, but also guys go make plays for one another," Salme said, noting that in addition to hitting shots, several players dove after loose balls, drew charges, and dished out assists throughout the run.

"Hard work works once again," Salme said. "You piece those together ... Suddenly, you look up and (the lead) was 20 points. That's a good thing to see."

In the second half, Adna shot 63 percent from the field, including a 5 for 8 mark from deep.

St. George's faded as the half went along and ended up with a worse percentage in the second half (28 percent) than they had in the first (32 percent).

The Dragons struggled to force turnovers, as Adna only gave the ball away six times.

Braeden Salme had another sensational game, scoring 28 points and grabbing seven rebounds. Gavan Muller logged 15 points and six rebounds, and Jens Neilson and Lane Johnson tallied nine points each. Johnson also hauled in seven boards.

While Salme was thrilled with the group's execution after halftime, he was even more happy to see his guys play "fearlessly," an intangible that he said had been missing the last two times the Pirates came to Spokane.

In each of the last two seasons, the Pirates fell in the Round of 12, first to Columbia (Burbank) in 2022 and then to LRSW in 2023. Adna will get another crack at Columbia (Burbank) on Thursday, as they'll go up against the unbeaten No. 1 seed in the quarterfinals.

"We're gonna try to do what we did today," Salme said. "Play our guts out, play without fear, and see what happens."

Regardless of how Thursday plays out, Salme is excited that this group has at least two more games to play.

"We've been right here, but haven't gotten over the hump," Salme said. "We've gotta find a way to win it. I told the guys, be sure you leave everything on the court. I can confidently say all of those kids left everything on the court."