Pirates erupt in second half to top Ducks, advance to fourth-place game


SPOKANE — The Adna boys basketball team has embodied the phrase “second-half team” in the 2B state tournament. The Pirates scored 48 second-half points in their Round of 12 win over St. George’s on Wednesday, Feb. 28, and 44 in their quarterfinal loss to Columbia on Thursday.

In Friday’s elimination game against Toutle Lake, Adna needed another second-half explosion to defeat the Ducks, 57-48, to advance to Saturday’s fourth-place contest and clinch the team’s first trophy since 2018.

“It might be as special as any team I’ve ever coached, honestly. I’ve coached this group of seniors since they were in fourth grade,” head coach Luke Salme said. “The resiliency that our 15-, 16-, and 17-year-old kids have shown is remarkable, and I’m so happy for them that we get to take home a trophy.”

Early against Toutle Lake, it appeared Adna would finally get off to a hot start on offense. Trevin and Braeden Salme each scored in the first two minutes of the game, but over the next nine minutes and change, the Pirates scored just three points. Meanwhile, the Ducks built a 19-8 lead thanks to Zach Swanson’s nine first-quarter points.

The Pirates’ seniors created a spark on offense just before halftime, as Jens Neilson and Lane Johnson brought them within five before Toutle Lake’s Connor Cox scored with 10 seconds left. The Ducks led 25-18 at the break, when Luke Salme instilled a sense of urgency into his team fighting for its postseason life.

“The message at halftime was about doing the little things: sprinting the floor and executing on both ends,” he said. “When there’s 16 minutes left, it should be pretty easy for kids to recognize, ‘OK, I’m gonna leave everything out there.’”

Adna exploded on offense in the third quarter, quickly scoring 12 straight points to take a 30-27 lead. The Pirates’ lead grew to as large as seven in the third and they remained in front, 38-33, entering the fourth.

The seniors ensured that the Pirates wouldn’t go home empty handed. Braeden Salme, Johnson, and Neilson combined to score all but three of Adna’s 19 fourth-quarter points. The elder Salme delivered the dagger with an and-one layup and free throw with under five minutes left to give Adna a 45-38 lead. The Pirates held on to win 57-48.

“I thought we played with better urgency in the second half. We’ve had three incredible second halves in our three games here, so I’m proud of the kids for being able to respond like that,” Luke Salme said.

Braeden Salme finished with 15 points while Johnson, rocking 10 on his jersey instead of the usual 0, scored 14 on 6 of 10 shooting.

“That’s a four-year starter who just means so much to this program. He’s not always scoring a bunch of points, but man, he makes us good,” Luke Salme said of Johnson. “For him to do it when we need it most is freaking awesome for him and us.”

With the victory, the 10th-seeded Pirates qualify for the fourth-place game against No. 9 Northwest Christian on Saturday at 9:30 a.m. They are the lowest seed still alive in the race for a trophy. A win would give the program its first hardware since it took home third place in 2018.