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Defensive pressure that West Albany High had handled well for most of the first two quarters Friday night began to have a more damaging effect after halftime.

The Bulldogs led visiting South Salem by 17 midway through the second quarter but then saw that advantage fall away in large chunks.

By late in the third it was gone, and the Saxons pulled away for a 77-71 Greater Valley Conference boys basketball win.

“The second half we got pressed a little bit and we had guys throwing some bad passes, including me,” said Oreon Courtney, who led the Bulldogs with 24 points, including 20 by halftime. “We didn’t really execute in the second half, like coach (Derek) Duman was telling us, as we did in the first half.”

Nick Renyer added 17 points and Chase LaPerle nine for the Bulldogs (8-7, 3-5), who finished up the first half of league play and open the second half Tuesday at GVC-leading Sprague in Salem.

South Salem guards Tyler Wadleigh and Jaden Nielsen Skinner were too much for West to handle, scoring 34 and 19 points, respectively, for the Saxons (8-7, 4-4).

West scored the game’s first 10 points, including a pair of Courtney 3-pointers, and pushed the pace to a 28-18 lead after one period.

The Bulldogs continued to break South Salem’s pressure and traps early in the second, going ahead 34-20 on Trent Dutcher’s two free throws.

Courtney’s offensive putback with 4:35 left in the half made it 38-21.

But then came the Saxons, using two West turnovers to build an 8-0 run and score several baskets in transition.

The Bulldogs remained in control and went to halftime with a 45-38 lead.

“Our first two quarters were fantastic,” Duman said. “We came out really energized, ready to play, got some deflections of our own and made some plays. We’re a pretty good team when we play in transition. We got them to miss some shots and we were aggressive going to the rim.”

West found some offensive rhythm again early in the third quarter, as a Renyer layin and a short Courtney jump pushed the lead to nine.

South Salem pushed the ball at will, off West turnovers and made baskets, eventually cutting its deficit to one on a Nielsen Skinner basket. The Saxons took their first lead at 52-51 on Wadleigh’s conventional three-point play with 3:08 left in the third.

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The lead traded sides four more times in the third, with Nielsen Skinner’s corner 3-pointer at the buzzer putting the Saxons up 59-58.

West would tie the score early in the fourth but never got back on top.

Second-half turnovers by the Bulldogs — six in the third and four more in the fourth — piled up and made life easier for the Saxons on the other end.

Wadleigh had 20 of his 34 points in the second half. Nielsen Skinner scored well throughout.

“They’re quick off the dribble and drive and kick … and it’s hard to get on them because they’re really good shooters,” Courtney said.

Duman said his team was ready for the pressure, having dealt with similar defense three days earlier in a 20-point win against McKay.

“It definitely rattled us, unfortunately, and they did a good job of executing,” the coach said. “I think what got us is them playing from behind. We did a decent job of getting the ball past halfcourt, then we were there they did a good job tipping from behind and we just weren’t strong enough with the ball most of the time.”

The Bulldogs were without two players due to injury. That’s opened the door for a few younger players, who have played quality minutes and shown some good signs for the future, Duman said.

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Sports Reporter