Tyler West Jr. lays the ball up against the San Diego Sharks on Sunday, May 29, at the Salem Armory Auditorium. (JOSHUA MANES/Keizertimes)
In the final game of the regular season, the Salem Capitals closed things out with a 17-point win against the San Diego Sharks on Sunday, May 29.
The 113-96 win was the Capitals fourth in a row, and they finished with a 17-7 record, third in the West.
The Capitals came out with a smooth and balanced offensive attack. Nine of 11 players scored, and six were in double digits with no one scoring more than 19 for Salem.
“You always want six to eight guys in double figures because that usually means you won,” head coach Brian Stevens said.
The Sharks ran a 1-2-2 press that crowded the inside and held Salem big man Vincent Boumann to just three points in the first half.
Despite the San Diego press taking Boumann out of the usual flow of the offense, he still finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Stevens said it was the effective outside shooting in the first half that let them get Boumann involved in the second.
Boumann shot 8-for-12 from the field and 3-for-6 from the free throw line.
Paul Hafford also had 19 for the Capitals, going 5-for-8 from beyond the arc.
On the defensive end, Jahlin Smith had five blocks, a number he was surprised to hear at the end of the game.
He credits the impressive performance to finding a level of comfort with the team. Smith was acquired midseason after starting the year with the Seaside Sea-Kings, and Sunday was only his eighth game with Salem.
“I know where I can help from, I know where to be and I’ve more of a chemistry now so I know my teammates,” Smith said. “And they trust me so I just make plays.”
Smith’s acquisition gave the Capitals something they sorely needed, a rim protector, according to Stevens.
And more so than his defensive skill set, Stevens has been impressed with Smith’s unselfish play, even saying he’s too unselfish at times.
“I know he can score 20, but we’re not looking for him to score 20 and he knows that,” Stevens said. “He actually gives up the ball too much. We talk about that. We want him to score a little more. But his scoring really comes great in transition and in half-court sets from the dunk spot.”
The Capitals head into the playoffs and a first round matchup with the Vancouver Volcanoes, who they won the season matchup against 8-3, most recently a 112-99 win on Friday, May 27, in Vancouver.
The three-game series begins Friday, June 3, in Vancouver. Game two is at the Salem Armory Auditorium on Saturday, June 4, and game three, if needed, will be Sunday, June 4, at the Armory.