PREP GIRLS BASKETBALL: Salt Fork extends conference winning streak

Jan. 30—WATSEKA — Salt Fork junior Alexa Jamison is a two-time all-state performer for the Storm.

During her career, the 5-foot-5 guard has been known for her quickness, her scoring, her ballhandling and her defensive ability.

But on Monday night against the Watseka Lady Warriors for sole possession of first place in the Vermilion Valley Conference, Jamison added a new trait — offensive rebounder.

With 19.7 seconds left and the Storm holding a 40-39 lead over the Warriors, Salt Fork senior Macie Russell missed a free-throw attempt but there was Jamison beating a pair of Watseka players into the corner for the rebound.

Jamison would go on to make four free throws in the final 18 seconds to seal the 44-40 victory for Salt Fork. It's the 42nd straight conference win for the Storm, who are looking for their fourth consecutive conference title.

"Absolutely not," said Jamison about being known for rebounding. "I was saying in the locker room, that was probably my only offensive rebound of the game. Because of my size, that's what I have to work on the most. And especially after my (knee) injury, my jumping is not very good. That was awesome."

According to Salt Fork head coach Brian Russell, that was just Jamison finding a way.

"It took our whole team grinding this win out," he said. "In my opinion, this is one of the most mentally tough teams that I've ever coached and I've coached some really good teams.

"We had a lot of different things going against us, but we just found a way."

One of the obstacles that Salt Fork (21-5 overall, 8-0 in the VVC) had to overcome on Monday night was a 10-day layoff since beating Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin 38-11 in the Vermilion County Tournament Championship.

"Basketball is a hard sport and you have to be conditioned to play a high level for 32 minutes," said Jamison, who finished with a game-high 23 points. "Even having just a few days off can change your whole body. We had to work really hard to get this win.

"Watseka is an awesome team. We knew we had to play hard and I think it took us a while to get into it. We really stepped up our defense at the end and we hit some really big shots. Everyone on this team did their part."

That was something that coach Russell really emphasized, noting that Macie Russell scored 11 of her 14 points in the first half, while Brycie Hird had all seven of her points in the first two quarters and then there was the defensive tenacity from Bracie Hird and Sailor Pacot, while Ella Cary and Taylor Remole played key roles coming off the bench.

"Sailor stepped up a little bit. She was playing against someone that is probably twice her size," said Russell of Watseka junior center Megan Martin, who is 6-foot. "That girl is really good and Sailor did a fantastic job. Early on, we were probably leaving her on an island too much, but that is what this team does. They play for each other.

"Tonight, they did that. Sailor stepped up on the defensive end...and at the end, it was Alexa pulling us through it. Each player found a way to contribute to a huge road win for us."

Martin finished with a team-high 11 points — 5 of those coming in the fourth quarter.

Watseka (22-3 overall, 8-1 in the VVC) didn't help itself by making only 6-of-14 free throws in the contest, while Salt Fork was 9-of-10.

Both teams are back in action this Thursday with conference road games. Salt Fork is on the road at Oakwood, while Watseka has a game at Hoopeston Area.

Salt Fork 44, Watseka 40

Salt Fork (44) — Macie Russell 6 1-2 14, Brycie Hird 3 0-0 7, Bracie Hird 0 0-0 0, Alexa Jamison 7 8-8 23, Sailor Pacot 0 0-0 0, Ella Cary 0 0-0 0, Taylor Remole 0 0-0 0. Totals: 16 9-10 44.

Watseka (40) — Haven Meyer 1 0-0 3, Brianna Denault 2 2-4 6, Ava Swartz 4 0-0 8, Jasmine Essington 1 1-2 3, Megan Martin 4 3-4 11, Christa Holohan 3 0-2 7, Lauren Tegtmeyer 1 0-2 2. Totals: 16 6-14 40.

Salt Fork '11 '13 '9 '11 '— '44

Watseka '7 '16 3 '12 '— '40

3-pointers — Salt Fork 3 (Russell 1, Bry.Hird 1, Jamison 1). Watseka 2 (Meyer 1, Holohan 1). Total fouls — Salt Fork 15, Watseka 16. Fouled out — Russell, Denault.

Records — Salt Fork 21-5 overall, 8-0 in the Vermilion Valley Conference. Watseka 22-3 overall, 8-1 in the VVC.