SALEM - West Branch's Drake Lohnes finished with just seven points after four quarters and two overtimes with Salem, but it was his last two that did the Quakers in. With just 9.5 seconds left in double overtime and Salem up 64-63, the Warriors pushed down the court and Lohnes' running jumper found the basket as time expired Saturday at a packed John A. Cabas Gymnasium. The shot gave West Branch a 65-64 victory.
"This was a big win for our program tonight," West Branch coach John Hancock said. "We only won four games last season and to come in here tonight and battle back like we did and get a win against a very good Salem team is a big step for us."
West Branch fought back from a 10-point deficit at the half. Salem led 12-9 at the end of one quarter and 32-22 at the break, before the Warriors cut into the Quakers lead late in third and erased it in the fourth. West Branch forced OT when Beau Taylor sank a 3-point buzzer beater at the end of regulation. The score stood at 51. After one overtime, it was knotted up at 57.
"When you let teams hang around, bad things happen," Salem coach Rich Hart said. "We came up empty on six-straight possessions in the third quarter. We missed too many shots and made too many bad decisions in the third and fourth quarters and even in the overtimes. When we had the chance to build a lead in OT and turn a two-point lead into a four- or six-point game, we couldn't do it. You can't let a team hang around and we learned that lesson the hard way tonight."
The missed shots and turnovers opened the door for the Warriors, who struggled to keep up with the Quakers in the first two quarters.
"We knew we had to control the tempo of the game tonight and we didn't do that early," Hancock said. "Salem is fast-paced team. We knew we couldn't run with them. We didn't want to get into a track meet with them. We just don't have the offensive weapons like they do. And down by 10-points at the half, I thought we did a very good job of defending them in the second half. We knew we weren't going to score a lot of points in bunches. We just had to get a couple stops and chip away at them and that's what we were able to do."
The Warriors, for the most part, held Salem's Ryan Bush. The high-production player was limited to just nine points after Wednesday's 24-point performance against United. Trent Kenreigh stepped in and took over. He dropped in seven from field - including four 3-pointers - and two from the line for a game-high 20 points.
"We knew we had to contain Ryan Bush. Containing him is the best you can hope for," Hancock said. "We were able to limit him, but then Kenreigh shot the heck out of the ball. Salem is so hard to defend. You have to worry about Bush and Kenreigh and their post players."
The Warriors were led by Jake Griffith's 18 points. He also had a team-leading seven rebounds. Austen Rekolt added 11 points.
The Quakers fell to 1-1 with the loss - their first in NBC play. Salem next plays Struthers at home on Tuesday before traveling to Marlington for its second conference game on Friday.
"We have to do some soul searching," Hart said. "We need to learn how to finish things and take care of lead when we have it. It's not going to get any easier and we have a hard week ahead with Struthers and Marlington."
The Warriors remained undefeated and stand at 3-0 on the season. Not bad for a team that garnered just four wins last season.
"We're getting there and we're getting better," Hancock said. "I feel we are a much better team than we were last season and hopefully we continue to improve. I just told my underclassmen that if this win tonight in an atmosphere like this at Salem doesn't motivate them, I don't know what will.
The J.V. Warriors also won a close one, holding off a late Salem rally to escape with a 43-41 win. Lucas Austin scored 15 points for West Branch. Austin Frank led the Quakers with 14.
West Branch 65, Salem 64
WEST BRANCH SCORING: Beau Taylor 2-1-6, Kip DeShields 2-1-5, Scott Muckleroy 3-5-9, Rekolt 4-3-11, Drake Lohnes 3-1-7, Jalen Shelton 1-0-2, Jacob Griffith 8-2-18, Lucas Austin 2 2-2 6. TEAM TOTALS: 25, 13-19, 65.
SALEM SCORING: Ryan Bush 4-1-9, Trent Kenreigh 7-2-30, Mike Madison 1-0-2, Zach Penick 4-0-8, Bradon Webb 2-3-8, Brandon Myers 3-0-6, Max Wolfgang 3-1-7, Anthony Shivers 1-2-4. TEAM TOTALS: 25, 8-12, 64.
THREE POINTERS: West Branch 1 (Taylor), SALEM 6 (Kenreigh 4, Bush 1, Webb 1).