AUSTINTOWN - For the third time this season, the Salem Lady Quakers met up with the Poland Lady Bulldogs. According to Lady Quaker head coach Renee Farina, it was the best performance her team had against Poland.
Unfortunately, their season came to an end as a cold stretch in the middle two periods doomed the Lady Quakers as they fell 39-26 in the Division II district tournament at Austintown Fitch High School.
Salem started the game off strong, playing solid defense and getting good looks at the basket as Katherine Stiff knocked down a 3-pointer and Cassie Davidson and Andrea Seguin each got good inside shots. Salem won the first quarter 7-5. However after that point, turnovers and mental mistakes began to mount for Salem.
"We had 25 turnovers and most of those were unforced," Farina said. "We had one more point then turnovers in this game. Turnovers killed us and they were unforced turnovers. It was us beating ourselves rather than Poland beating us."
Starting in the second quarter, Poland coach Nick Blanch went to a full-court pressure defense for force Salem into mistakes.
"We figured if we pressured their guards we'd be able to force some turnovers," Blanch said. " We put a little heat on them and it worked out to our advantage. First quarter, we played half-court defense and let them set up and see the floor. We didn't want to make it that comfortable on them in the remainder of the game so we figured we'd turn it up a notch and see how they responded."
SALEM: 7 2 2 15 26
POLAND: 5 13 7 14 39
SALEM SCORING: Mallory Maher 2-0-6, Peyton Meals 1-1-4, Katherine Stiff 1-0-3, Mallorie Davidson 0-0-0, Sierra Day 0-0-0, Cassie Davidson 4-0-9, Lindsey Foster 1-0-2, Andrea Seguin 1-0-2. TEAM TOTALS: 10, 1-2, 26.
POLAND SCORING: Kelsey Malenic 3-0-8, Emily Rollo 0-0-0, Abby Brenoel 1-4-6, Maura Bobby 3-3-9, Abbie Frank 1-5-8, Adriana Sikora 3-0-6, Rachel Robertson 1-0-2. TEAM TOTALS: 12, 12-17, 39.
THREE POINTERS: Salem 5 (Maher 2, Meals, Davidson, Stiff), Poland 3 (Malenic 2, Frank).
It worked for him.
Ten of Salem's turnovers came in the second quarter alone as Poland pushed into the lead. Abbie Frank scored the first six points of the period to get her team into the lead. Poland out-scored Salem 13-2 in the second quarter.
Coming out in the third quarter, Salem got back to playing the strong defense that helped them early, but they still struggled to get the ball into the hoop. Stretching the second and third quarters, Salem went a stretch of 9:30 of game time without scoring. A 3-pointer from Poland's Kelsey Malenic in the final seconds of the third looked to be a dagger as Poland took a 14-pont lead into the fourth quarter.
At that point it would've been easy for Salem to pack things in, but the girls refused to quit. They stepped up the defensive intensity even higher and began to find their touch from the outside.
Mallory Maher knocked down a pair of 3-pointers. Peyton Meals followed with another and Davidson soon would add one more. They got as close as seven points, but also missed some key opportunities to get the game even tighter.
"We finally woke up there at the end and played with some intensity and were going after it," Farina said. "But when we forced them to turn the ball over, that's when we needed to capitalize off of it and score at the other end, and we didn't do that as much as we should have. We missed out on some scoring opportunities."
Also every time Salem would knock down a long range bomb, Poland would come back with an answer on the inside. Maura Bobby scored six of her team-high nine points in the fourth quarter for Poland to keep the Lady Quakers at arms reach.
According to Blanch, that was a microcosm of his team's season.
"The girls never stopped playing and it doesn't matter the situation the game," he said. "That's where we've gotten so much better over the course of the year. We don't get down on ourselves. Bad things happen throughout the year and what we do is keep moving forward and making good things happen for us."
Farina felt the same about her team in the end. Although the season came to an end for Salem (5-16), she was proud of the way her team handled the adversity in the game and throughout the season.
"These girls show a lot of good character in the fact that they never gave up, ever," Farina said. "Even in games when we were losing big, they fought until the final buzzer went off. I think that shows the type of people they really are. They fight 'til the end."
Davidson led Salem on the day with nine points and also grabbed five rebounds. Maher added six points. Lindsey Foster was tops on the glass grabbing nine boards.
Poland advances on to the district semi-finals, while Salem looks to the future. Salem had four sophomores in their top-seven rotation in the game. Farina feels that those players over the course of the year got great experience that will help the program in the years to come.
"We just got to learn to put four good quarters together," Farina said of the key to future success. "We played a lot of young girls this year and a lot of them were forced to grow up very quick. They were put in positions that normally sophomores wouldn't be in. I think they adjusted well and it should mean good things for our future."